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Through the Oxford Cancer Immuno-Oncology Network (OCION), we aim to apply Oxford's leading expertise in fundamental immunology to enable more patients, with a wide range of cancer types, to benefit safely from tailored immunotherapy use. We sat down with Professor Felipe Galvez-Cancino, who has recently joined the Nuffield Department of Medicine, to discuss his research.

Tell us about your new role.

I am a recently appointed as a Kidani Fellow and Group Leader at the Centre for Immuno-Oncology (CIO) in the Nuffield Department of Medicine. Before moving to Oxford I was a postdoctoral fellow for the last five years at the UCL Cancer Institute, working on the testing of therapeutic antibodies and in the validation of novel targets for immunotherapy.


Tell us a little about your research focus.

My research focus has been always on immunology and particularly cancer immunology. We want to develop new therapies aimed at engaging our own immune system to attack and kill tumours. Amongst the many cancers that exist, the lab will initially focus on hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer which is currently rising in incidence and mortality across the UK and the world-wide.


What are the potential implications of this work for patients?

Our research group aims to understand why the immune system is often suppressed and therefore unable to kill liver cancers, and work to develop new therapies that can prevent this. We will also study samples from ongoing clinical trials to better understand why some people do not respond to current immunotherapies. I want my science to be at the intersection between basic and translational research and the lab to become a place where clinicians and basic scientist interact and generate new ideas that will improve outcomes for patients.


How important are collaborations for your research? 

Collaborations and team science are key for my research. Of particular note I have been building a strong collaboration with Professor Ellie Barnes to help build a comprehensive research program that includes preclinical models, human samples and the participation of clinical and non-clinical scientists. I must also highlight my collaboration with Professor Ignacio Melero with whom we are setting up mouse models of liver cancer, and who has acted as a mentor and friend during this transition.


What do you think should be the priorities for the cancer field in the next 10 years?

I think we should focus on those cancer that are rising in incidence and mortality like liver cancer. An interesting approach is to focus our efforts on prevention and the understanding of carcinogenesis because this could help reduce suffering and save overstretched health systems. I have seen first-hand through my role in the NexTGen Cancer Grand Challenges team and personal connections the devastating impact yet often overlooked childhood cancers, so hope to work on these tumours once my lab is established.


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