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Cancer Immunotherapy Discovery and Development

Hope for patients with hard-to-treat cancers has emerged from a new type of treatment called immunotherapy, which leverages the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. One very exciting form of immunotherapy involves engineering the patient’s cells (T-cells) to find and attack cancer cells. Engineered T-cells (CAR T-cells) can be grown in the lab and given back to the patient as an anti-cancer therapy. Where standard therapies had previously failed, early versions of these ‘living medicines’ have succeeded in children with advanced leukemia and adults with B-cell lymphoma, with durable remission rates of over 80%. Health Canada approved early versions of these therapies in September 2018, clearing the way for further development. The field of CAR T-cell therapy is still in its infancy. Leukemia and lymphoma were the first types of cancer to benefit from this new approach, but there are other hematologic (blood) cancers and solid tumours that could be treated in this manner. To meet this challenge, scientists at the University of Calgary’s Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute are working with clinical investigators at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and Tom Baker Cancer Centre to create a new cancer research program focused on developing CAR T-cells and other immunotherapies.


The overarching goal of ACTION is to develop

effective, next-generation immunotherapies for

pediatric and adult cancer patients, using engineered

immune cells (CAR T-cells). To achieve this goal, our clinical investigators and scientists are creating a discovery, innovation, and translation ecosystem to accelerate the development of immunotherapies.

Their work will be enabled by existing and new cutting-edge equipment, highly-skilled personnel, and integrated discovery and translation pipelines.

Community Partnership will:

  • Build a new cancer immunotherapy research program

  • Enable recruitment of top researchers

  • Create training and learning opportunities for future

  • cancer scientists

  • Help procure specialized technologies

  • Make new ‘living medicines’ for cancer patients

Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute

Health Research Innovation Centre

3280 Hospital Drive NW

Calgary, Alberta T2N 4Z6

T: 1.403.210.3934


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