Cancer Vaccine Institute

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About Us

In 1994, St George's Hospital launched a fundraising appeal to finance the building of facilities for cancer vaccine research and to allow Professor Dalgleish to do clinical trials for a vaccine in malignant melanoma, which had only been available in the USA. The target - £500,000 - was reached in 1996 and the subsequent research showed great promise, but by 2000 it was clear additional funds were required to continue the work. The Cancer Vaccine Institute was launched in 2000 as an independent charity to continue fundraising.


Bench Workers

Dr Dan Fowler

After achieving my Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Southampton University in 2005, I joined the ICVI team as a research technician in Prof. Dalgleish's laboratory at St George's, making dendritic cell vaccines for melanoma patients. With funding from the ICVI, I was able to do a part-time PhD, which focused on investigating the anti-tumour responses of a particular immune cell called gamma-delta T cells. After my PhD I then began to look at how gamma-delta cells interacted with other immune cells, called macrophages, which are thought to accumulate in tumours and facilitate tumour growth. I am currently investigating how the drug Zometa can help gamma-delta T cells kill these macrophages, and whether the drug can potentially clear these macrophages from patient tumours. If it can, then this will add treatment options for cancer patients, particularly those with melanoma or prostate cancer. Professor Dalgleish has long been interested in mycobacteria (which also stimulate gamma-delta T cells) as treatments for cancer and the research I am doing, along with that of Joe and Emma below, is inspired by this.

I am really grateful to the ICVI for all the funding I have received over the past 10 years for my immunotherapy research, and am delighted to be making so much progress.

Joe Fenn

I became interested in immunotherapy whilst studying for my Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Bath. I started working at St George’s as a technician but am now registered for a full time PhD. My research is looking at tuberculosis infection as well as cancer – areas in which I believe there may be some interesting overlaps. My post is jointly funded by ICVI and Health Protection England.

I am looking at how T-cells use a protein called a T-cell Receptor (TCR) to recognize a vast number of different targets including cancer and tuberculosis infected cells. My project aims to characterize those cells that are able to respond to cancer or tuberculosis in terms of the TCR they express as well as their other characteristics. With this information we may be able to better understand the properties of gamma delta T-cells that are able to recognize and kill cancer cells and to design therapies that harness these cells. This could be an exciting advance in the treatment of cancer.

I would like to thank the ICVI and everyone who fundraises for the charity, because your support enables me to carry out this really important research, which I hope will be published within the next year or two.

Emma Sparrow

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at Imperial College, and then went on to do a Master’s degree in Immunology of Infectious Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I started my PhD at SGUL in October 2013, and am studying how gamma-delta T cells interact with tumours and other cells of the immune system. My project focuses specifically on a molecule called Granulysin which is a protein secreted by gamma delta T cells, and my project aims to understand its function. I am studying how Granulysin might induce other immune cells to move to the site of the tumour. In this way Granulysin might be an important regulator of immune responses to tumours. I was drawn to the project as I am very interested in finding ways in which the body's own immune system can be used to fight cancer, especially as current treatments for cancer will not always work and come with a wide range of side effects and other disadvantages. I also really loved the translational research aspect of the project - that there is a potential for discoveries made during my project to help towards getting a new treatment for cancer into the clinic. Potentially, any cancer which is susceptible to immunotherapy, including renal, lung, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal could benefit from this research, and that’s really exciting.

I am delighted to be part of the ICVI funded research team at St George’s and I would like to thank each and every person who has donated to the ICVI. Your money really does make all the difference.

Andrew Gravett

I read Biochemistry at the University of Bath, following which I started working for the ICVI at St George’s as a research technician. During my time at St George’s, I’ve researched dendritic cell vaccination of melanoma patients, the anti-cancer properties of newly synthesised anti-malarial compounds and the feasibility of immunotherapy/chemotherapy combinations. I am now studying for a part time PhD. My work focuses on the drug Gemcitabine, a chemotherapeutic agent which has been used for some years in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Several years ago I did some research which indicated that Gemcitabine has some immunological effects on tumour cells. Specifically it increases the amount of a molecule called “MHC class I” on a range of tumour cells in culture. This is a potentially important observation since this molecule is what allows T cells to recognise and kill tumour cells.

My project has shown several key features of tumour cell responses to Gemcitabine which we hope to publish soon. This work could have a real impact on how cancer patients are treated in the future.

My work, and that of Thanu is inspired by Professor Dalgleish’s interest in combination therapies; he has long believed that immunotherapy in combination with chemotherapy is an effective cancer treatment.

None of my work would have been possible without the efforts of the supporters of the ICVI and I am really grateful to you all.

Thanu Alaguthurai

I am interested in understanding the human immune system and how it is often challenged during conditions such as cancer. My Biomedical Science degree at St George’s followed by a Master’s at King’s further fuelled this curiosity, and I began working for the ICVI research team in October 2014. I am a research technician who is working on the effects of the drug Zometa on tumour cells.

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy are used to kill growing cancer cells but not all cells are destroyed. Over 50 years ago, a small group of cells called cancer stem cells were found within various cancer populations. These cells have the ability to resist cancer treatments, thus they proliferate and repopulate cancers. My work involves characterising these cells in colorectal, lung and prostate cancers in addition to identifying how differently they respond to Zometa. This is a drug that has previously been used in prostate cancer patients to prevent problems they develop with weak bones. We are studying the re-purposing of this drug to manipulate the immune system. The question here is whether the stem cell population possesses a distinctive immune profile when compared to non-stem cells and whether Zometa can be used to modify that immune profile. If cancer stem cells are different to normal cancer cells, we can target both types of cells with conventional cancer therapies combined with immunotherapy – and decrease the likelihood of cancer relapse.

My post is funded by the ICVI and I am delighted to join the team and would like to thank all the charitable trusts and ICVI supporters who help to fund my work.

Rachel Cant

My career began at Newcastle University where I graduated with a degree in Medical Microbiology and Immunology in 2012. Following my graduation, I continued to work in a research lab at Newcastle University where I became interested in research on the immune system. It was this which led me to start my PhD at St George’s in 2013 where I am studying the effect the drug Naltrexone on the immune system. Naltrexone is currently being used by some patients as an off-label treatment to cancer and autoimmune diseases but there is little evidence to support its use as a standard treatment. Hopefully, my current work for my PhD will help develop our understanding of how the drug works and provide scientific evidence to support Naltrexone’s use in cancer patients. I am immensely grateful to the ICVI for selecting me as the first beneficiary of the Nicholas Freeman Studentship, named after one of the founding trustees of the charity. My work has been inspired by Professor Dalgleish and some of his patients’ experiences of Naltrexone which convinced him that it has an immunological component. I am delighted that my work has been patented and licenced, as this has raised some money which has been ploughed straight back into the charity’s research.

Board of Trustees

Guy Sangster

Guy is one of the founding Trustees of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy.

He lost his mother to Melanoma in 2000 after a seven year illness, but truly believes that had it not been for Professor Dalgleish and the work of the cancer vaccine programme in the UK and USA, her life would have been a lot shorter.

Harry Cotterell

Harry is our Chairman and is a farmer from Herefordshire.

He lost his first wife, Carolyn, to Melanoma in 1999. In the course of her treatment they travelled to the US and to Australia. Harry is convinced that vaccines have a major role to play in the treatment of cancers, particularly as they offer a much better quality of life than most existing therapies.

Jemma Freeman

Jemma is the daughter of Nicholas Freeman, one of the founding members of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy, who lost his battle with melanoma in 2000.

For the last few years of his life Nicholas was treated by Professor Gus Dalgleish and was in no doubt that the treatment he underwent both prolonged the length of his life and its quality. He very much hoped that the ICVI would be able to continue its work and help others in his position.

Lady Rankin

Suzette lives in Scotland.

Her husband Alick died from cancer in 1999.

Watching cancer research from the sidelines over the last few years, she is convinced that vaccines will become the all-important deterrent in fighting this disease — as they have been for so many other diseases in medical history. Professor Dalgleish's cancer vaccine programme today gives the world hope for tomorrow.

Reshma Ashraf Mason

Reshma is the Company Secretary and one of the founding Trustees of the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy.

In 1999 she lost her husband to Melanoma but felt it was vital to support Professor Dalgleish and his team. She believes vaccines are the future of cancer treatments.

Office Team

Abi Parry-Williams, Fundraising Assistant

Abi has been working as the fundraising assistant for the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy since 2011. After working in the banking sector then taking a break to have children, this role has been worthwhile and rewarding. As well as being involved in organising the bi-annual Immunotherapy symposiums and dealing with the office duties, Abi loves being in regular contact with our dedicated supporters.

Lucy Deville

Lucy was Appeal Director at St George's Hospital where a successful fundraising appeal raised funds for cancer vaccine research.

This early research showed such promise that she was delighted to be asked to help with founding the ICVI as an independent charity. She works as Secretary to the Trustees, co-ordinates the Peer Review process for research projects and monitors projects funded by the ICVI at other centres.

Marie Dimond, Fundraising Manager

Marie has over 20 years' fundraising experience in a variety of organisations but with a special interest in medical research charities. She is delighted to be working at the ICVI at such an exciting time and is looking forward to the challenges of raising the funds needed to maintain our research projects and increasing our profile within the charity sector.

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