Introducing Ms Mika Persson – RUNDIPG International HDR Scholarship Recipient, 2020
Project title: Neoantigen immunopeptidomics for the development of immunotherapies for the treatment of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
First of all, I am sincerely appreciative to have received the RUN DIPG International HDR Scholarship. The scholarship will allow me to devote myself full-time to the mission of developing therapies against DIPG.
The project that I will work on throughout the scholarship aims to identify the unique structures that are present on the surface of DIPG cells, so called ‘neoantigens’. Knowledge about these neoantigens can then be used to develop an immune-based therapy targeting the tumour. This approach has had much success in other types of cancer, particularly melanoma and some blood leukaemias.
Immunotherapy involves training the patient’s immune cells to recognise the cancer cells as being harmful so it can then remove the cells from the body, just as it would when fighting the common cold or other routine infections for example. When training the patient’s immune system, it is important that the body identifies only the cancer cells as harmful (not the healthy cells/tissue) which is why finding and understanding DIPG neoantigens is so important.
“T-cells” are white blood cells that control and effect part of a person’s “adaptive immune response”- the type of immunity that occurs in response to things identified as “foreign”, AKA ‘antigens’. The type of immunotherapy this project is hoping to progress is known as “CAR-T therapy” where T-cells are taken from the patient, manipulated in the lab to recognise a cancer-specific antigen, and then given back to the patient to allow a targeted immune response to occur.
Once again, I am very grateful to be able to undertake this project at the University of Newcastle, under the supervision of Associate Professor Matt Dun, with many thanks to RUNDIPG and their supporters. With you ongoing support I believe we have the resources necessary to enhance the development of a novel and effective treatment to improve and prolong the life of kids and families facing DIPG.