I am very honoured to be funded by PCRF for my PhD study under the supervision of Professor Len Seymour, during which I will explore using cancer-killing viruses, a novel class of immunotherapy, to target pancreatic cancer.
PCRF sponsored me to virtually attend the Pancreatic Cancer conference held online by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the largest cancer association in the world. Without the funding from PCRF, I would not have been able to attend this amazing conference. Attending academic conferences is an important way for researchers to keep up with the latest research progress on cancer management. For junior researchers like me, it provides an ideal platform for me to get together with like-minded peers and learn from a range of experts. More importantly, the insights I gained from the conference will help me to develop better immunotherapeutic agents that specifically address the challenges of pancreatic cancer treatment.
From the conference, I clearly understand that there are two major challenges in treating pancreatic cancer. Firstly, the tumour microenvironment is “cold”, which means there are very few or even no immune cells in the tumour deposit. Secondly, the dense stroma tissue which surrounds pancreatic tumours acts as a barrier that not only protects the cancer cells, but also acts as cancer-supporting tissue for cancer metastasis and drug resistance.
My project will be tackling these challenges by using cancer-killing viruses. These viruses are genetically engineered and able to replicate only in pancreatic cancer cells. They break down the tumour cells and trigger inflammation to recruit more immune cells that are able to help kill the tumour deposits. Meanwhile, the viruses will express antibodies that trigger and direct immune cells to kill not only cancer cells but also the cancer-supporting cells in the stroma. This will help reduce the stroma’s mass, and make the tumour inside more accessible to the immune cells for killing.
I am very grateful that PCRF supported me to attend the AACR conference. Otherwise, I would have missed this intellectually invigorating event and lost the opportunity to hear about the latest challenges and advances in pancreatic cancer treatment. I am very excited to be developing a powerful immunotherapeutic agent that we hope will treat pancreatic cancer with minimal adverse effects.