For more than 20 years, Professor Pierre-Yves Dietrich’s team has been working to understand how the immune system can take action against brain cancers (gliomas) when conventional treatments unfortunately have a very limited effect. Gliomas are devastating tumors because they develop in the areas of the brain that control emotions and senses, or even the ability to walk, speak, write, feel, love, or think. A promising research strategy is to use our own defense system. The goal is to unleash or bolster an immune response that will identify cancer cells and destroy them, all without affecting the healthy cells in the brain or the rest of the body. However, glioma antigens have not yet been clearly identified and the immune response process in the brain is poorly understood.
This project is expected to contribute to the development of immunotherapies that are specifically focused on defined antigen targets and are able to circumvent the defense systems mounted by gliomas. It should also take into account the very distinctive location where these tumors occur. The brain has remarkable anatomical and functional characteristics that require initiation and regulation of immune responses in the brain to follow special rules. Initial clinical trials are in progress to exploit this methodology for a cancer vaccination.
Professor Pierre-Yves Dietrich, Department Director, Oncology Department, Geneva University Hospitals
Dr. Valérie Dutoit, Biologist, Oncology Division, Oncology Department, Geneva University Hospitals
Dr. Paul Walker, Biologist, Oncology Division, Oncology Department, Geneva University Hospitals