The new MGH Center for Cancer Immunology aims to develop novel therapies that will enable the immune system to kill cancer cells.

In September, 2015, Massachusetts General Hospital leaders announced the creation of the Center for Cancer Immunology and formally welcomed a team of world-class scientists recruited for this effort. Led by Nir Hacohen, PhD, the goal of the multidisciplinary center is to understand the role of the immune system in the proliferation of cancer, and to develop novel therapies that will enable the immune system to kill cancer cells.

“Immunotherapy is changing everything,” Dr. Hacohen says. “This is the next step on the road to curing cancer.”

“Immunotherapy is changing everything,” Dr. Hacohen says. “This is the next step on the road to curing cancer.”

The faculty joining the center are: Marcela Maus, MD, PhD, who will lead the Cellular Immunotherapy Program, as well as Mark Cobbold, MD, PhD, and Shawn Demehri, MD, PhD.

The field of cancer immunology is not new, but only in the last few years have scientists started to unlock the true potential of immunotherapy for both solid tumors and blood cancers. With the recent FDA approval of several immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs and the development of highly effective chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies, a significant subset of patients are experiencing long-lasting tumor regression and enhanced survival. “Immunology is one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of basic research and experimental cancer therapeutics,” says Daniel Haber, MD, PhD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center.

Leveraging Resources

Despite these early successes, there is much work to be done to understand what drives tumor immunity and to predict which patients will respond well to these immunotherapies. And there are ample opportunities to invent new and effective immune-based therapeutics.

Launched in partnership with the Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Department of Dermatology and the Melanoma Program (in which immunotherapy has already become a major therapeutic modality), the new Center for Cancer Immunology leverages the resources of the top hospital in the nation and the experience of the team that has led the development of targeted cancer therapies over the past decade. The center is also closely integrated with the Cancer Center’s clinical research efforts, including the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies, ensuring these new therapies will reach patients as soon as possible.

To learn more about the Center for Cancer Immunology and how philanthropy can help advance this work, please contact us.