Advisory: Give yourself extra time when travelling by car to Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, or Toronto Rehab University Centre. City of Toronto construction on University Ave. may cause delays.
At UHN, we strive to deliver Compassionate Care & Caring. Learn more about the services and supports that are available to you throughout your journey.
Our UHN programs and services are among the most advanced in the world. We have grouped our physicians,
staff, services and resources into 10 medical programs to meet the needs of our patients and help us make
the most of our resources.
At the heart of everything we do at UHN are our Healthcare Professionals. Refer a patient to one of our 12 medical programs. Learn more about the resources and opportunities available for professional growth.
University Health Network has grown to be one of the largest research and teaching hospital networks in Canada - pioneers in improving the lives of patients. Our long history of health professions education at Toronto General, Toronto Western, Princess Margaret and Toronto Rehab hospitals has consistently advanced the science of education.
University Health Network is a health care and medical research organization in
Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The scope of research and complexity of cases at UHN has made us a national and international
source for discovery, education and patient care.
Being touched by illness affects us in different ways. Many people want to give back to the community
and help others. At UHN, we welcome your contribution and offer different ways you can help so you can find one that suits you.
The Newsroom is the source for media looking for information about UHN or trying to connect with one
of our experts for an interview. It's also the place to find UHN media policies and catch up on our news stories, videos, media releases,
podcasts and more.
A team of researchers at UHN's Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM) has developed a comprehensive way to map the ability of molecules on the surface of cancer cells to serve as immunotherapy targets.
"Immunotherapy is quickly becoming a game changer, and is now considered – along with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy – a cornerstone in the fight against cancer," says
Dr. Naoto Hirano, Senior Scientist at PM.
"However, a major drawback of current immunotherapies is that they often only work in a fraction of patients. It is also very difficult to predict which patients will benefit."
To overcome this limitation, the research team – including postdoctoral fellows Kenji Murata and Munehide Nakatsugawa – developed a technique that greatly expands how immunotherapy targets cancer so that more people might benefit from the treatment.
In cancer immunotherapy, certain immune cells – known as killer T cells – are temporarily isolated from patients. They are then "taught" to target certain features, known as antigens, on the surface of cancer cells.
In order for T cells to recognize these antigens, the antigens must be chopped into fragments called peptides and loaded onto a larger molecule known as type I human leukocyte antigen (HLA) complex, of which there are many different types.
The T cells are then injected back into patients and, if the immunotherapy is successful, begin to seek out and destroy the cancer cells.
Could help treat broader group of patients
Currently, immunotherapy targeting is limited. Only a few types of HLAs are used, which are found in only a subset of people and ethnic groups. Furthermore, only a select number of peptides, which are present in a fraction of the cancer cells, are used.
To address this, and to increase the diversity of targeting approaches, the researchers used immune cell samples from eight different individuals with melanoma. Using these samples, and a new streamlined approach, they were able to test the ability of 25 different types of HLAs and 800 different peptides to target the cancer.
The researchers also identified potent new peptides derived from well-established cancer antigens - called MART1 and NY-ESO1 – that are present on a wider number of cancer cells than currently used antigens.
"By expanding the diversity of targeting approaches, our strategy allows for a more complete examination of the immune response," says Dr. Hirano. "It opens the door for the development of immunotherapies that are effective in a broader group of patients."
The research study was supported by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Mitacs, the Province of Ontario, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.