Canada’s most comprehensive immune therapy program

Tapping into the power of the immune system to attack tumors is not a new area of focus for The Princess Margaret.  Our centre employs some of the world’s top immunologists who have been deepening our understanding of the immune system and testing new approaches in the laboratory for over three decades.  Dr. Tak Mak, Director of The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research, identified and cloned the T-cell receptor—considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of immunology—in our labs back in 1984.

Today, our scientists, led by Drs. Pam Ohashi and Naoto Hirano, are collaborating with pharmaceutical companies and physicians to take new solutions tested in the lab to cancer patients. 

Ipilimumab is a promising drug being tested by our team, led by Dr. David Hogg.  This drug is effective in ‘releasing the brakes’ applied to the immune system by certain molecules, in this case, a molecule called CTLA-4. 

This drug is acknowledged as the first and only treatment clinically proven to extend the lives of melanoma patients.  However, the cost of Ipilimumab is currently only covered if it is prescribed as the ‘second line’ of treatment.  Our team is studying the use of the drug in a clinical trial as a ‘first line’ treatment for melanoma patients to measure its efficacy and better understand which patients benefit the most.