Signals Blog

It was Science magazine’s 2013 breakthrough of the year and called a “turning point in cancer.” It even scored its own awareness month that year. Cancer immunotherapy – therapies that harness the power of a patient’s immune system to fight their disease – had officially arrived.

Fast-forward three years and now companies are tripping over themselves trying to discover new ways to capitalize on the promise of immunotherapy. Startups Juno Therapeutics and Kite Pharma are racing to get FDA approval for their CAR-T drugs, while heavy-hitters like Amgen, Celgene, Novartis, Pfizer and others are in it to win it. Immunotherapy even has its own presidential endorsement in the form of Jimmy Carter.

According to this Timeline of Progress, created by the Cancer Research Institute, scientists have been making significant discoveries in the areas of immunology and immunotherapy since 1890. But there is no question things are speeding up now.

In April, tech billionaire Sean Parker announced he was donating US$250 million to create The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, comprised of six leading American cancer centres. (Please watch the video below.)

Last month it was announced that the University of Pennsylvania, as part of the Parker Institute, will lead the first human clinical trial of a CRISPR-centred cancer treatment if it is approved by a federal advisory panel in Washington, D.C. (And if Chinese scientists don’t do this first.) According to Fortune magazine, “the trial will use the gene-editing technology to modify a patient’s T cells to better attack three types of cancer.” Exciting stuff.

Curious to learn more about progress in immunotherapy and the key players? Blogger Mark Curtis has been watching this space for a while.


Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at) We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.