The HMCRT is pleased to have visited the John Radcliffe Hospital at Oxford University and formally presented funds to finance the ongoing purchase of state-of-the-art HPLC equipment.

Summary of IDO Work: The immune system is important for protection not only from pathogens but also from development of tumours. Cells from the immune system patrol the body looking for the presence of viruses, bacteria or cancerous cells and under normal circumstances, eradicating them. However, cancers can develop different mechanisms allowing them to hide or prevent the immune system from attacking them, which allows the cancer to grow. One of the methods that cancers sometimes use is by producing a protein, an enzyme called IDO (Indoleamine-2,3 dioxygenase). IDO is commonly found in a large number of different types of cancer cells, including liver cancer and melanoma (skin cancer), and studies have shown that patients whose cancers expressed IDO had a worse prognosis than those in whom the tumours did not. 

The function of IDO is to degrade tryptophan, an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesised within the body and must be supplied through the diet. The supply of amino acids such as tryptophan is critical for all cells to make proteins, allowing them to function properly. The presence of IDO within a tumour means that it degrades tryptophan and as a result the amount of tryptophan present near to the tumour is dramatically reduced. In such a hostile environment, other cells are essentially starved of this key nutrient and are unable to survive and function properly, while the tumour remains resistant. This includes cells from the immune system and the tumour can grow and the immune system is unable to do anything about it. 

In our laboratory, we are currently researching ways to inhibit IDO function to allow the immune system to effectively target such cancers. The state-of-the-art HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) machine purchased through kind donation from the Henry Mahon Cancer Research Trust will allow us measure with a high degree of accuracy the function of IDO using cell culture based assays and also with patient samples and allow us to screen for effective novel IDO inhibitors. These novel treatments could hopefully be used in combination with existing therapies such as chemotherapeutic agents and also potentially with cancer vaccines that are currently being developed within our laboratory.