The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation | UHN

About the Foundation
IMMUNOTHERAPY AT THE PRINCESS MARGARET

Revolutionizing Cancer Therapy

Immunotherapy is rapidly gaining recognition for its potential to change the way we treat cancer and to join chemotherapy, radiation and surgery as a fourth pillar of cancer treatment. 

Within the international scientific community, it has been long understood that the immune system has the ability to conquer cancer.  We’re now at a point where this knowledge has started to become translated into treatment possibilities for cancer patients.

We have already seen numerous success stories of cancers fought and lives extended through immunotherapy.

 
About the Cancer Centre
The Cancer Warrior Unleashed
Special feature publication. Read it online now or order a free magazine.
 
About the Centre's Research Institutes
PATIENT STORIES
IMMUNOTHERAPY OFFERS HOPE

Tish Vigna knew something was very wrong. While out on a run with her dog, she had chest pains. She struggled to get home. When she did, she called an ambulance... Read more >

A second battle with cancer
4TH CANCER BATTLE, NOW WITH IMMUNOTHERAPY

In the past six years, Jeanette Edl has faced the fight of her life four times. In May of 2010, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, which occurs in the lining of the uterus. “It came back on three occasions”... Read more >

A drug that shows your body how to beat cancer
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
The Cancer Warrior: The Immune System
Download our immune system poster. Just how does your body protect itself from threats, such as cancer? By deploying key weapons in the immune system’s arsenal – like the T-cell.
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
IMMUNoTHERAPY STRATEGIES
Three types of treatments being studied, developed and tested at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre:
 

Boosting the Arsenal

In adoptive T-cell therapy, samples of T-cells are taken out of a patient. A lab process is used to boost the number and effectiveness of these cells, so they can be put back into the patient to attack a tumor... Read more >
 

T-cells on Alert

The goal of cancer vaccines is to alert T-cells to the presence of cancer and to initiate a strong T-cell response against the tumor... Read more >

Unleashing the Immune System

The immune system has ways of controlling its response to threats to the body. Most of the time, it holds back its response at various checkpoints. In immune checkpoint blockade, drugs are used to get the immune system to release the brakes and allow an immune response... Read more >



IMMUNOTHERAPY: A RICH HISTORY OF DISCOVERY AND INNOVATION

1984

Dr. Tak Mak clones the T-cell receptor.

1984

1994

Dr. Tak Mak demonstrates that CTLA4 (protein receptor) is a key regulatory checkpoint in the immune system.

1994

2002

Dr. Pamela Ohashi (above) and Dr. Linh Nguyen demonstrate that tumor-specific T-cells exist and are capable of mounting a response against tumors.

2002

2005

Dr. Pamela Ohashi, Dr. Linh Nguyen (above) and Patty Yen travel to Dr. Steven Rosenberg’s lab in the U.S. to learn techniques to grow tumor-specific T-cells.

2005

2008

Dr. Pamela Ohashi, Dr. Brad Nelson, Dr. Réjean Lapointe and Dr. Jonathan Bramson found the Canadian Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium.

2009

Immune Therapy Program is launched at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

2011

Rising stars Drs. Marcus Butler and Naoto Hirano are recruited from the U.S. for the immunotherapy program.

2013

First adoptive T-cell therapy clinical trial opens in Canada at The Princess Margaret.

2015

Clinical leadership is expanded with Dr. Lillian Siu joining the immunotherapy program.

2016

Over 180 active immunotherapy clinical trials are underway at The Princess Margaret, including Canada’s first gene-engineered T-cell trial.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
dr. tak mak goes to the vatican
Dr. Tak Mak was there. So was U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden and former CBS News Anchor Katie Couric. As was Sean Parker, the Co-Founder of Napster and the former President of Facebook.

This eclectic mix of people was at the Vatican this past April to take part in the 2016 international conference on regenerative medicine.

For Dr. Mak, the invite came from Dr. Ronald DePinho, the President of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, who was “putting together a small group of people to discuss immunotherapy at the Vatican.”

That’s how Dr. Mak ended up on the same stage as Couric, who moderated a panel discussion involving him and three other cancer immunotherapy experts.

While Dr. Mak was initially surprised by the invitation, he wasn’t surprised that immunotherapy was something of interest to the Vatican and such a wide range of individuals.

“Immunotherapy could become a pillar in cancer therapy,” Dr. Mak says, underscoring its growing importance in the field of cancer treatment.

 


DR. TAK MAK, SENIOR SCIENTIST

Dr. Tak Mak is one of  The Princess Margaret’s most renowned scientists and one of the most cited medical researchers in the world.

Dr. Mak joined the Ontario Cancer Institute, now part of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, as a post-doctoral fellow in the ‘70s. He was mentored by Dr. James Till and Dr. Ernest McCulloch – the celebrated Canadian scientists who proved the existence of stem cells.

Dr. Mak’s cloning of the T-cell receptor more than three decades ago helped advance the field of immunology and had major implications for the still-emerging world of immunotherapy.

Today, Dr. Mak serves as the Director of The Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at The Princess Margaret. Some of his recent work has involved unique research on a so-called sharpshooter drug that slows down the growth of a number of types of cancer.
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
REAL CURES COME FROM DISCOVERY RESEARCH
INNOVATION AT THE PRINCESS MARGARET

The history of immunotherapy stretches back decades, involving many researchers around the world who have helped sort out the complex pieces of the immune system puzzle.

Understanding the T-cell has been a key part of that puzzle. The T-cell can attack and destroy cells infected with viruses. Most importantly for immunotherapy, it can also take on cancer cells. 

The Princess Margaret’s Dr. Tak Mak helped advance our understanding of the T-cell with a significant discovery. It was in his lab that the human T-cell receptor was first cloned in the 1980s. 

Dr. Pamela Ohashi, co-director of The Princess Margaret’s Tumor Immunotherapy Program (TIP) and a member of the Immunology Department at the University of Toronto, was working with Dr. Mak when that discovery was made. It provided the foundation for future understanding about the immune system and how it could be used to fight cancer. 

Half a world away, the breakthrough inspired Dr. Naoto Hirano. “I was in Japan, I was very excited,” he says. “I thought that Tak Mak was a genius.” 

Dr. Hirano never dreamed they would meet. Three decades later, they are colleagues at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

The understanding of the T-cell has steadily increased over time. And Dr. Ohashi’s own career was heavily influenced by these advances. 

Today, she works with Dr. Linh Nguyen and Dr. Marcus Butler on adoptive T-cell therapy at The Princess Margaret.

In 2005, Dr. Ohashi, Dr. Nguyen and their colleague Patty Yen travelled to the U.S. to learn about adoptive T-cell therapy. This was the origin of immunotherapy at The Princess Margaret.

Many important discoveries have been made by members of the research team at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre that are providing key insights for translating and developing novel clinical trials. Today, the immunotherapy program at The Princess Margaret is growing and more than 1,300 patients have been treated through clinical trials in the past two years alone.
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
 
The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
the Princess Margaret LeadS the Way
TUMOR IMMUNOTHERAPY PROGRAM (TIP)

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is home to Canada’s first and most comprehensive immunotherapy program. Our cutting-edge research expertise spans basic immunology discoveries to clinical trials. We focus on improving our knowledge of the immune system to better detect, diagnose and target cancers.

“There’s a lot of expertise that needs to come together to really move us forward in this field. The special thing about Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is that we have an excellent team of experts who are really in this to be game-changers,” says Dr. Pamela Ohashi.
 
“This is the perfect place to do things that are considered impossible. We have the brainpower, we have the resources, we have the patients and we have support from the Foundation.” – Dr. Lillian Siu


KEY FEATURES OF TIP

Next generation of immune therapies:

We’re conducting studies to understand how a T-cell response can be regulated and augmented to improve its ability to kill cancer cells.

 

New clinical trials of combination therapies:

We’re combining different therapeutic strategies to improve the immune response and provoke a stronger attack on a patient’s cancer.


 

TCR gene transfer trial:

We have opened the first clinical trial in Canada that uses genetically engineered T-cells to kill off cancer cells when given to patients.

 

TIP Database:

We’re developing a comprehensive database of clinical data from patients who have undergone immunotherapy that will inform future treatments.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
ON THE FRONT LINES OF IMMUNOTHERAPY
OUR CANCER EXPERTS WORK TOGETHER TO TAKE IDEAS FROM THE LAB TO THE CLINIC

DR. LILLIAN SIU

Dr. Lillian Siu is always prepared to take on a challenge. A medical oncologist for the past 20 years, she is determined to advance treatment to ... Read more >

1984

DR. PAMELA OHASHI

Dr. Pamela Ohashi is driven by the desire to cure cancer. Her positive outlook and dedication to innovation pushes her research forward... Read more >

1994

DR. NAOTO HIRANO

For Dr. Naoto Hirano, the true value of research occurs when it can be translated into making a difference in patients’ lives... Read more >

2002

DR. TRACY MCGAHA

Years ago, he lost his father to prostate cancer. While his father battled cancer, Dr. McGaha realized just how much was left to discover about cancer’s ability... Read more >

2005

DR. DAVID BROOKS

Dr. David Brooks got his start studying immune responses to persistent viruses – an interest that came from seeing his parents’ work with AIDS patients... Read more >

2008

DR. DEREK CLOUTHIER

Dr. Derek Clouthier is one of the newest members of the Tumor Immunotherapy Program. He came to The Princess Margaret late last year, after finishing his... Read more >

2008

DR. LINH NGUYEN

Dr. Linh Nguyen has been part of The Princess Margaret’s immunotherapy efforts since they started a decade ago. The field has changed rapidly... Read more >

1984

LEE-ANNE STAYNER

Lee-Anne Stayner is on the front lines of immunotherapy clinical trials at The Princess Margaret. Through her interaction with patients, she is dedicated to providing... Read more >

1994

DR. CHRISTOPHER PAIGE

Throughout his 42-year career, Dr. Christopher Paige has seen the field of cancer immunotherapy rise and fall, but he believes it’s finally having its moment... Read more >

2002

DR. DANIEL DE CARVALHO

Since he was young, Dr. Daniel De Carvalho always had a keen interest in science. That continued into his university years in Brazil and has carried into his work... Read more >

2005

DR. MARCUS BUTLER

Dr. Marcus Butler is motivated to help patients, and in his own words, cautiously optimistic about immunotherapy. For Dr. Butler, the challenge he currently... Read more >

2008

MORE ABOUT TIP

Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is home to Canada’s first and most comprehensive immunotherapy program. Our cutting-edge research expertise spans basic... Read more >

2008