Developing vaccines against childhood cancers – Dr. Aru Narendran

Vaccines have effectively treated and even eradicated, some of the most devastating infectious diseases. Not only can vaccines protect us from viruses and other pathogens, but they can also train the immune system to recognize and destroy tumour cells.

Based on research showing the effectiveness of anticancer vaccines against some adult tumours, pediatric oncologist Dr. Aru Narendran, MD, PhD is developing a vaccine for high-risk, difficult-to-treat cancers in children.

Malignant cells can make unique mutant proteins, called neoantigens, that aren’t found in normal healthy cells. Narendran’s lab gathers and analyzes data from tumours and normal samples of high-risk pediatric patients to identify candidate neoantigens. Once they have this information, they can develop and test effective anticancer vaccines for children with difficult-to-cure brain tumours, leukemias, and sarcomas.

The new Calgary Cancer Centre will significantly boost Narendran’s work by attracting new talent, providing access to critical study specimens and technology, and encouraging more collaborations between adult and pediatric oncologists. “This will help tremendously with important knowledge exchange and learning from each other more effectively.”

Narendran currently holds the Kids Cancer Care Chair in Clinical and Translational Research in Pediatric Oncology. His goal is to transform the treatment of childhood cancers in the future. “For me, OWN.CANCER simply means that we never have to tell a parent that there is nothing more that we can do to help their child with cancer. Ever.”

 

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