Personalized cellular immunotherapy: Dr. Simon Turcotte, one of the three principal scientists of a pan-Canadian project

- 2 min
Dr Simon Turcotte

Thanks to a $7.4 million grant from the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the new Canadian Cholangiocarcinoma Collaborative (C3), a collaborative research project on biliary tract cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma, is now underway. 

Dr. Simon Turcotte, a researcher at the CHUM Research Centre, surgical oncologist and leader in cellular immunotherapy at CHUM, is one of the three principal scientists involved in leading C3 along with his colleagues at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Carolina Ilkow and Dr. Rebecca Auer

The research trio will continue to be mentored by John Bell, a co-investigator from the same institute, founder and scientific director of BioCanRx, the Canadian Immunotherapy Network. 

With this funding, C3 scientists will plan a clinical trial of tumour-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) immunotherapy for 15 cholangiocarcinoma patients, a first in Canada for this type of cancer. 

The trial will take place at The Ottawa Hospital and CHUM. 

TIL therapy involves extracting immune cells called lymphocytes from a patient’s tumour, purifying them and then multiplying them outside the body until they number in the billions. These cells are then transfused into patients, who have been immunologically prepared and given immunostimulants to help this live immunotherapy kill cancer cells throughout their bodies. 

Access to TIL therapy is currently very limited in Canada. 

Initial cell manufacturing will take place at CHUM’s Unit for Cell Production followed by The Ottawa Hospital’s Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Centre. Eventually, the goal is to enable hospitals across the country to produce TILs, building on the “made-in-Canada” approach for CAR-T therapy for blood cancer pioneered by the Canadian-Led Immunotherapies in Cancer (CLIC) program. 

A pan-Canadian team 

C3 includes more than 30 scientists, clinicians, patients and caregivers across Canada, in addition to partners in the United States.  

Initial C3 partner institutions include The Ottawa Hospital, University of Ottawa, CHUM, BC Cancer Research Centre and Genome Sciences Centre, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, University Health Network, Sunnybrook Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, McGill University, McMaster University, Queen’s University, National Institutes of Health, and the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. 

Source: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

Personalized cellular immunotherapy: Dr. Simon Turcotte, one of the three principal scientists of a pan-Canadian project