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Research overview

Professor Alan Melcher, Breast Cancer Immunology Team

Our group works alongside Alan Melcher’s wider Translational Immunology Team, but with a breast cancer specific focus, and sits in the Breast Cancer Research Division as part of the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre.

The team is also linked to the ICR/Royal Marsden Centre for Translational Immunotherapy, which Alan Melcher also leads, and provides an infrastructure for immunotherapy research right across the translational spectrum through from pre-clinical modelling to immune analysis of patient samples for all tumour types.

The Breast Cancer Research Team is interested in translational research linking laboratory findings to early clinical application in breast cancer, and has two main areas of focus:

  • studying therapeutic anti-cancer (‘oncolytic’) viruses (OV, including in combination with other immunotherapies)
  • understanding studying the activation of human T cell responses against tumour-associated antigens.

OV were initially developed as direct cytotoxic agents, to specifically infect, replicate within, and kill cancer cells. However, it has become increasingly clear that OV work more by stimulating an immune response against the tumour — i.e. they are a form of immunotherapy. It has been shown that some OVs can be effective treatment in breast as well as other cancers when combined with other agents, including small molecule drugs and radiotherapy. This team examines the efficacy and immunogenicity of these strategies in breast cancer pre-clinical models, using both human and murine model systems.

The second focus area is on the activation of human anti-tumour T cell responses, focusing on characterising and testing the immunogenicity of specific breast cancer target proteins and peptides in human naïve and recall T cell priming assays. As with the OV work, the key focus is to develop alternative therapeutic vaccination and treatment strategies against key breast cancer targets, using OV or mRNA-based vaccination strategies.

This team also works in close conjunction with the Breast Cancer Now Unit based at Kings College London.

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