Innovation at the Princess Margaret
The Cancer Warrior Unleashed
REAL CURES COME FROM
The history of immunotherapy stretches back
decades, involving many researchers around the
world who have helped sort out the complex pieces
of the immune system puzzle.
Understanding the T-cell has been a key part
of that puzzle. The T-cell can attack and destroy
cells infected with viruses. Most importantly for
immunotherapy, it can also take on cancer cells.
The Princess Margaret’s Dr. Tak Mak helped
advance our understanding of the T-cell with a
significant discovery. It was in his lab that the human
T-cell receptor was first cloned in the 1980s.
Dr. Pamela Ohashi, co-director of The Princess
Margaret’s Tumor Immunotherapy Program (TIP)
and a member of the Immunology Department
at the University of Toronto, was working with
Dr. Mak when that discovery was made. It provided
the foundation for future understanding about
the immune system and how it could be used to
Half a world away, the breakthrough inspired
Dr. Naoto Hirano. “I was in Japan, I was very excited,”
Dr. Tak Mak is seen at a July 3, 1984, press conference about the cloning of the T-cell receptor.
Image courtesy of University Health Network Archives. The image has been modified.
he says. “I thought that Tak Mak was a genius.”
Dr. Hirano never dreamed they would meet.
Three decades later, they are colleagues at Princess
Margaret Cancer Centre.
The understanding of the T-cell has steadily
increased over time. And Dr. Ohashi’s own career
was heavily influenced by these advances.
Today, she works with Dr. Linh Nguyen and
Dr. Marcus Butler on adoptive T-cell therapy
at The Princess Margaret.
MORE ON PAGE 13.
In 2005, Dr. Ohashi, Dr. Nguyen and their
colleague Patty Yen travelled to the U.S. to learn
about adoptive T-cell therapy. This was the origin
of immunotherapy at The Princess Margaret.
Many important discoveries have been made by
members of the research team at Princess Margaret
Cancer Centre that are providing key insights
for translating and developing novel clinical
trials. Today, the immunotherapy program at The
Princess Margaret is growing and more than 1,300
patients have been treated through clinical trials in
the past two years alone.
An important type of white blood
cell that can kill cancer cells
A molecule found on the
surface of T-cells, responsible
for guiding the immune
response to targets such as
viruses or cancer cells
Discovery and Innovation