Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre is home to the only program for treating complex gynecological cancers in the region. To stay on the forefront of gynecological cancer therapies, Drs. Hal Hirte and Ali Ashkar are championing an innovative research study that aims to uncover a new treatment for ovarian cancer.
A healthy immune system is able to destroy infected cells and tumours using natural killer (NK) cells. In a person who is battling cancer, the functionality of NK cells is impaired.
“We wanted to explore whether we could isolate the NK cells from a patient, increase the number of these cells and activate their potency, then use those cells to fight the patient’s ovarian cancer,” explains Dr. Hirte.
By extracting both NK and ovarian cancer cells, Drs. Hirte and Ashkar have successfully activated these cells to fight cancer during their laboratory experiments. The researchers are in the process of expanding this study into a clinical trial involving patients.
Both Drs. Hirte and Ashkar are thankful for the funding provided by the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre Foundation Research Grants, which enabled them to prove that their hypothesis is feasible.
“This therapy is relatively safe, as we’re using a patient’s own immune cells to fight the cancer,” says Dr. Ashkar. “We’re very hopeful that this study will develop into a new, cutting-edge treatment option for patients.”