As a research-based organisation we like to experiment. Not just in the lab, but also in the ways we communicate our research to our supporters who fund it as well as the wider public.
You can see the result of our latest trial in the Youtube video above: our first Google Hangout on Air, in partnership with Science on Google+. It’s a live web chat featuring Professor Fran Balkwill from the Barts Cancer Institute, Professor Ben Willcox from Birmingham University, and our own hosts Buddhini Samarasinghe and Kat Arney.
Over 25 minutes or so we tackle the basics of the immune system and how it does (and doesn’t) recognise cancer cells, as well as the role of chronic inflammation in fuelling cancer growth. We take a look at the latest immunotherapy drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors: according to Fran they work by making immune cells “wake up and smell the coffee,” kicking them into action to destroy tumours. We also explore a few exciting new ideas such as engineered immune cells and combinations of immunotherapies.
Finally, we address the popular but misguided idea that it’s possible to ‘boost the immune system’ with certain foods. As Ben puts it: “Our immune systems are pretty resilient… I would caution people against believing those kinds of promises. My advice would be that if you have some money and want to boost the immune system to fight cancer, you’re better off supporting a cancer immunologist than buying yoghurt.”