Revolutionising Brain Cancer Treatment: Pioneering Novel CART Cells for a Brighter Future

Revolutionising Brain Cancer Treatment: Pioneering Novel CART Cells for a Brighter Future

Professor Misty Jenkins; Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Australia

Misty Jenkins is a NHMRC fellow and laboratory head in the Immunology Division at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research. Misty leads the immunotherapy program within the Brain Cancer Centre and is dedicated to discovering novel immunotherapy targets for high grade gliomas in adults and children. Her research focusses on the development of novel chimeric antigen receptor T cells for brain cancer. Her group also uses cutting edge two-photon microscopy combined with mouse models of brain cancer to investigate the tumour microenvironment and uncover unique biology of brain tumours. Misty has a PhD in Immunology from The University of Melbourne, followed by postdoctoral positions at The Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre. A/Prof Jenkins was awarded the L’Oreal for Women in Science Fellowship (2013), was Tall Poppy of the year (2015), was awarded the Top100 Women of Influence award (2016) and was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2020. In addition to her research career, A/Prof Jenkins is experienced in governance and strategy as a company Director, co-chairs a Federal Health Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) and is a passionate advocate for gender equity and Indigenous Health and education. She was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2023 for distinguished service to medical science in Immunology, the support of women in STEM, and to the Indigenous community. @DrMistyJenkins

High-grade gliomas pose a significant challenge in oncology due to their aggressive nature and low survival rates. While remarkable progress has been made in cancer treatment over the past two decades, brain cancer treatments have seen little change. Traditional methods including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy offer little benefit, especially in cases of Glioblastoma (GBM), where the 5-year survival rate is a stark 5%. Even more heartrending is the reality for children diagnosed with diffuse midline glioma (DMG), a brainstem tumour with no survivor. Therefore, there is an urgent and undeniable need for new treatment approaches. Immunotherapy is a gamechanger in cancer treatment. My research program focuses on designing personalised Chimeric Antigen Receptors (CARs) to enhance T cell immunotherapy for brain cancer. This approach has already achieved a remarkable event-free survival rate of 62% in relapsed or refractory leukemia patients, who faced otherwise fatal outcomes. Recent discoveries about the presence of lymphatics in the central nervous system and the ability of immune cells to penetrate the blood-brain barrier make CAR T cells a promising option for glioblastoma immunotherapy, where other approaches have fallen short. My team has created a strong pipeline to discover and test immunotherapies targeting cell surface-expressed brain cancer antigens. Our successful development of this therapy showcases our capacity to take a recombinant protein and translate it into a functional CAR T cell therapy for glioblastoma. Moreover, we are expanding our research to identify novel glioblastoma targets using cell surface mass spectrometry. With this pipeline in place, we aim to iterate and develop further targeted CART cell therapies for glioblastoma patients and novel targets will be discussed.

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