Can you imagine believing that you may have discovered the cure for cancer? How that must feel, to be at such an exciting juncture of medical research.
This is the situation faced by researchers around the world who are working in the field of immunotherapy.
They have been working for years on a therapy, which is showing very positive first results. Their excitement is hampered by the fact that they are finding it difficult to get funding to continue their research.
Immunotherapy is not a hippy lentil weavery alternative idea – like some people seem to think.
Immunotherapy involves engineering the body’s own immune cells to recognise a specific or multiple cancer antigen target, so that the body can seek and destroy cancer cells as it would a virus or bacteria, even if it has metastasized.
Unlike homeopathy and acupuncture, it is cutting edge science, immnotherapy researchers in academic labs publish their results in peer reviewed scientific journals.
So why is it not being funded, if it is so great? Doubter suggest that the reason for lack of funding is that it is not showing promising results.
Professor Carl June at UPenn recently published the results of a small clinical trial with advanced, refractory chronic lymphoid leukaemia. He would have treated more patients, but only had funds for three. He took immune cells (T-Cells) from the patients, modified these cells to recognise a particular cancer antigen, multiplied the cells in huge numbers, then injected them back into the patient. Dr June reported:
‘We saw at least a 1000-fold increase in then number of modified T cells in each of the patients. Drugs don’t do that.
In addition to an extensive capacity for self-replication, the infused T cells are serial killers. On average, each infused T cell led to the killing of thousands of tumour cells- and overall, destroyed at least two pounds of tumour in each patient.’
As you can imagine, talk of ‘serial killer cells’ got the science world to sit up and listen, and Dr June’s research centre recently announced that the Swiss based pharma company Novartis will fund further research.
It is a good start, but they need more cash.
And this is where Ruth comes in. I have ‘known’ Ruth for several years, as an online acquaintance. We have chatted about where to go on holiday, about dodgy boilers, and parenting issues, about current affairs and feminism. Recently we have been talking a lot about charities and music.
I knew that Ruth was interested in music, but I had no idea she was phenomenally talented. She is absolutely NOT the type to go on X Factor and tell a sob story about how she has always wanted to be famous, and that if she could get through to bootcamp, she would make her nan/kids/dog proud. So when she revealed that she was recording an album, with the proceeds to go to Immunotherapy Research, I was intrigued.
Ruth has a deep personal commitment to finding a cure for cancer, so she has always kept up to date with the latest research. When she read about immunotherapy two years ago, she was amazed to find that there was no UK charity dedicated to raising money for this important research.
She is a do-er, not a wail-er, so she set about starting a charity.
And to raise funds she recorded an album, which will be released soon.
Here is a sneak preview of her album. I will keep you posted on further developments.