Improving immunotherapy for melanoma

Dr Umaimainthan Palendira

Dr Umaimainthan Palendira

Centenary InstituteCancer Council NSW Funding: $448,374Funding duration: 2018-2020


Immunotherapy is treatment that helps the body’s immune system fight cancer. It is effective in many cancer types, but more than half of patients who are treated don’t respond. This not only delays alternative treatment for those patients but since the treatments are costly, it also drains healthcare budgets.

The research

It’s thought immunotherapy works by ‘releasing the brakes’ that stop the immune system attacking and killing cancer cells. Dr Palendira’s team are targeting cells known as Tumour-resident Immune (TRI) cells as a key to this process. Their project will fully characterise TRI cells to work out what is special about them, how they might be controlled, and how they might be used to predict who will respond to immunotherapy. 

The impact

The work could potentially allow the development of a test based on TRI cells to predict which patients would respond to immunotherapy. This would generate huge savings to the health system and avoid unnecessary side effects in patients. In the longer term, it’s hoped understanding the factors that regulate TRI cells could lead to new strategies to treat cancer and/or improve the effectiveness of current treatments.

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