Immunotherapy treatment used to fight cancer and infectious diseases

Immunotherapy treatment used to fight cancer and infectious diseases


(soothing, harmonic music) – [Russell] At Berkeley
we don’t have a hospital or cancer patients. What’s unique about what we’re doing here is that we’re really
interested in understanding the basic mechanisms
about how the body works. One of the interesting ideas
that has emerged at Berkeley is that perhaps we can use
what we’ve learned about how the immune system
fights infections to help us better fight other diseases like cancer. One of the biggest
breakthroughs that has happened here at Berkeley is work done
by Jim Allison in the 1990’s. That there are molecules
that put the brakes on the immune response and
prevent it from functioning. So by removing those
brakes, we can unleash the immune system to attack cancer. My lab is mainly interested
in the problem of infectious disease. One of the things that we discovered is that it might also be possible to, instead of taking the brakes off, actually push on the accelerator. There are special molecules
called cyclic dinucleotides made naturally by bacteria
that can supercharge the immune response. Other researchers and
companies locally at Berkeley are taking these molecules and trying to apply them for the treatment of cancer. These molecules can be isolated and injected directly into tumors. They cause the tumors to melt away. Conversely, these molecules
may also be useful for treating other kinds of diseases. – Two billion people worldwide are infected with tuberculosis
and 1.5 million people die every year from this disease. We’ve taken some of
these molecules that were really developed for cancer
and have applied them to tuberculosis infection
and have found that they are pretty good at
eliciting immune responses that can be protective against
tuberculosis infection. People have actually been doing research on tuberculosis since the 1800’s. For a hundred years we really
made very little progress. But now we’re in a time
with these new techniques for manipulating the immune
response that have come out of other fields. It’s really exciting to
be able to apply these technologies in TB and I
think that they are really going to enable us to make huge progress. What was really exciting
for us is in the very first experiment we did, we saw
that they were as effective as anything else that has
been developed to date. – When we began our studies,
we had no thoughts at all about trying to treat cancer. And it’s really been just one of those accidental discoveries that
has been really exciting to be a part of. – My primary motivator
is just the excitement of discovery and figuring
out how things work. When you work on a
disease like tuberculosis, you always have to also
think about what do we need to learn in order to
eliminate tuberculosis from the planet. – Really this has been one
of the major breakthroughs in cancer therapy in the last decade. And it all started here, at Berkeley. (melodic, instrumental music)

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