Made at UCL


Using our own immune cells to target and kill cancer

Researchers at UCL are pioneering groundbreaking cancer treatments which reprogramme the patient’s own immune system to recognise and kill cancerous cells.

Using our own immune cells to target and kill cancer

CAR T-cell therapies are developed by harvesting T-cells, a type of lymphocyte, from a patient’s blood and genetically re-engineering them outside the body, so that they can recognise and destroy cancer cells. 

This reprogramming is achieved by introducing a gene for an artificial protein called a chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR for short.

Using the body’s immune system to fight cancer avoids some of the common side effects of conventional therapies, as non-cancerous cells are not targeted by the t-cells.

Dr Martin Pule’s laboratory at the UCL Cancer Institute is leading the way in developing new CAR T-cell therapies and UCL currently ranks top in Europe and second in the world for the number of inventions and patent applications in relation to this revolutionary treatment

In addition, UCL’s CAR T-cell programme, which involves researchers at the UCL Cancer Institute and clinicians at UCLH and GOSH, is the largest in Europe. This ‘cancer campus’ currently has 10 clinical trials open which use technology developed at UCL.

Other key researchers include Professor Emma Morris (UCL Division of Infection and Immunity), Dr Claire Roddie (UCL Cancer Institute and UCLH), Professor Karl Peggs (UCLH), Professor Persis Amrolia (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health and GOSH) and Dr Sara Ghorashian (UCL GOS Institute of Child Health and GOSH). 

UCL’s CAR T-cell therapies recently featured in the BBC2 documentary ‘War in the Blood’, which followed two patients on their treatment journey over two years.

The programme is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the  Biomedical Research Centre (RC) and funded by partners including the blood cancer charity Bloodwise and the EU 7th Framework Programme.

The CAR T-cell field is becoming increasingly commercialized with considerable contributions to the field being made by industry. The UCL CAR T-cell programme has a track record of collaborating with industry.

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Meet the team



  • Dr Martin Pule and Dr Claire Roddie of UCL’s CAR T-cell programme