US pharma giant teams up with University of Western Australia on cancer therapies

14 Sep 2018

The University of Western Australia (UWA) is partnering with global healthcare company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) to research how tumours can be made more responsive to immunotherapy treatments.

‘MSD and UWA will work together to examine tumour-associated blood vessels and lymph node-like structures within tumours, with a view to devising new combination treatment approaches,’ says Dr Louis Pymar, Senior Commercialisation Officer at UWA, in a university media release.

The project builds on the pioneering work of UWA’s Professor Ruth Ganss and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research on the use of ‘immuno-cytokine’ agents to 'normalise' disorganised blood vessels within tumours and to induce formation of specialised cell structures within tumours which act as 'portals' for the mass influx of immune cells.

‘Lymph nodes, a vital component of our immune system, normally only exist outside of the cancer and work to filter cancer cells and generate white blood cells that fight infection,’ says Pymar.

‘The treatments we are developing trigger the lymph-node-structures within the cancer, so that current immunotherapies that have been approved for clinical use can work more effectively.’

Phil Kearney, Director, MSD Business Development and Licensing says the partnership is another great example of MSD accessing world-leading science in Australia in an effort to bring new medicines to cancer patients.

Headquartered in New Jersey in the USA, the 125-year-old MSD is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Research-intensive, it focuses on innovative medicines, vaccines, biologics and animal health products.