Research //

Cancer Immunology

The Maurice Wilkins Centre is focused on developing precision therapy strategies to improve cancer treatment in New Zealand.

Cancer is a major health concern to people around the world and is a strong focus of the MWC research programme. MWC investigators study how tumour cells function and how our bodies fight cancer, identify potential drug targets, and develop new therapies.

Therapies that stimulate the patient’s own immune system to reject a tumour has revolutionised some cancer treatments, such as for melanoma. The success rates for many other tumour types, however, remain low. Therefore, our investigators are researching various aspects of the underlying processes of cancer treatments and how they interact with the immune system. This knowledge will be used to develop new prognostic and diagnostic markers and develop new tumour-targeted therapies that minimises toxic effects across the whole body. The MWC’s cancer research is patient-centred, involves close scientist-clinician collaborations, and has a particular focus on the health rights of Māori and the health needs of Māori and Pacific people.

The MWC supports three interconnected flagship research programmes under the Cancer Immunology theme

Precision immuno-oncology

To develop better biomarkers and therapies, it is important to increase our understanding of the interactions between tumour cells and the immune system through in-depth analyses with hundreds of individual patients.

Targeted delivery of immune stimulants

We are developing several immune modulating drugs, vaccines and adjuvants that have the potential to help the body’s immune system fight cancer.

Personalised therapeutic vaccines

There is an urgent need for development of a new type of technology to manufacture individualised peptide vaccines for cancer patients in a clinically meaningful time frame.