What’s this immunology centre all about then?
You may have heard about the new campaign by the University of Southampton to help cure cancer. Their aim is to crowd fund £25m to open a new state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Immunology by 2017. They aim to develop immunotherapy to revolutionise the way we cure cancer.
It’s such a huge project, so to make sure you can be clear on what the money goes to Professor Peter Johnson, Professor of Oncology at Southampton and Chief Clinician at Cancer Research UK, answered a few of the most frequently asked questions:
The campaign’s goal is to raise £25m. What will the money be used for?
We are going to build the UK’s first dedicated Centre for Cancer Immunology: this is founded on Southampton’s long track record, and will help us to accelerate progress in this rapidly-changing field. There will be a new building on the Southampton General Hospital site which will house the existing research groups, our clinical trials unit, and a number of important new recruits in discovery science.
What are the main aims of the new Centre?
We need to expand and accelerate our programme of research into cancer and the immune system: how cancers evade immune detection, how they can be made recognisable again, and how we can switch on the body’s responses to treat them. This will encompass a range of work spanning from basic discovery of the precise mechanisms involved right through to clinical trials of new types of treatment.
Can you explain in simple terms what immunology does and how it can help save lives from cancer?
The immune system is one of our main defenses against the outside world: it is how we cope with infections and injuries. Cancer has to escape the surveillance of our immune system in order to develop at all: we generate hundreds of tiny cancers every day which are mostly caught at a very early stage by the immune system and eliminated. The ones that are a problem are the ones that have evolved to get past our natural defences. By finding ways to restore the immune recognition of cancers we can devise treatments that will control them, and keep on controlling them: immunity can be life-long if we get it right.