The Breast Cancer Research Unit at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI) are determined to develop a new immunotherapy treatment to target breast cancer and other heartbreaking cancers affecting our community.

The team are hard at work developing a non-invasive gel that is comprised of our own cancer fighting immune cells that can then be injected into inoperable breast cancer tumours and eradicate the cancer cells present.

To ensure the gel is made up of the right compounds to be successful, Honours student Kyle Brewer has been investigating if a particular compound derived from seaweed could help in the formation of this gel. To conduct this vital research, Kyle is supported with a scholarship from The Hospital Research Foundation.

“One of the main issues with adoptive cell therapy is that if you just inject the cancer fighting cells into the body near the tumour they’ll just diffuse throughout the body. This means not as many cells are able to make contact with the cancer tumour,” Kyle said.

This new gel comprised of cancer fighting cells (T cells) could prove key to overcoming this issue.

“My project entails trying to identify compounds that we could use to help form the gel. At the moment I’m specifically looking at a compound that is derived from seaweed which forms a gel when it is at a certain temperature. I’m investigating adding some modification to the compound to make it form a gel at body temperature to mimic what would happen in a patient,” Kyle said.

Kyle is working alongside PhD student Namfon (Bee) Pantarat who is also working on the composition of this gel to ensure it will have the best result of killing the cancer once in the patient.

“My project involved working out exactly what compounds will be suitable to help this gel be mechanically strong enough to be given to patients,” Kyle said.

“In an ideal setting we would have this seaweed compound, mix it with the cells that Bee is working on and inject it into someone’s inoperable cancer tumour.

“Once this solution is in the body, the temperature will cause it to form a gel, like aeroplane jelly consistency, and hold the cancer fighting cells in place, so they can escape but only very slowly, and over an extended period of time. The idea is then that the cells will migrate out and destroy the cancer tumour.”

This revolutionary gel has the potential to open up new treatment avenues for women diagnosed with inoperable breast cancer. We look forward to keeping you updated as this life-changing work continues to progress.

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