Inform, Empower, Connect

We are funding a project looking at using immunotherapy (IMT) to treat osteosarcoma. The project is led by Professor Graham Cook and Dr Fiona Errington-Mais (University of Leeds, UK).

The body’s immune system is best known for protecting us from infections. However, it also attacks cancer cells, killing them before they can cause a problem. Some cancer cells can ‘hide’ from the immune system. This results in cancer growth.

IMT is a type of cancer treatment that uses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. Over the last several years IMT has shown promise in a number of different cancers.

“We are looking into developing an immunotherapy for osteosarcoma…using viruses that attack cancer cells.”

Professor Graham Cook

Osteosarcoma is a ‘cold’ cancer. This means that the immune system is weak against cancer. The addition of a single IMT on its own may not be enough to activate the immune system to kill cancer cells.

The Cook Lab are exploring whether they can help the body’s immune system to recognise osteosarcoma, making it less cold.  This could make IMT more effective. To do this they are using an IMT called an oncolytic virus (OV). 

OV are modified viruses that will both kill cancer cells directly and alert the immune system and allow it to attack the cancer. OVs have been approved for use in skin cancer and are safe with only mild side effects in patients.

The Cook Lab will

  • Test the ability of different oncolytic viruses to kill osteosarcoma cells.
  • See if OVs activate immune cells and allow them to kill osteosarcoma cells.
  • Explore how osteosarcoma hides from the immune system and use this information to decide what drugs should be combined with the OV.   

The results of this project will provide more information about the immune system of osteosarcoma. This will help to direct research. The project will also show if OV may be effective in osteosarcoma and help guide clinical trials.

Find out more about the project from Professor Cook in the above video.