Developing cell-based therapies to put cancer cures within reach

Cell therapy involves engineering cells of the immune system to find and destroy cancer more effectively.1 Our Oncology Cell Therapy Unit is developing novel ways to target and arm these living medicines, in order to locate and destroy cancer cells that hide in the body. 

Advancing today's cell therapies and developing tomorrow's cancer breakthroughs

As we find new ways to amplify the immune system’s capacity for recognising and eradicating tumour cells, we are building on the work already done in blood cancers to bring potential new treatment options to patients with solid tumours. Our ambition is to advance cell therapy by uncovering new targets and to improve precision to selectively destroy cancer cells. Our ultimate goal is to enhance efficacy while minimising toxicities of future cancer treatments. 

The initial approach in using cell therapy to treat cancer is to extract T cells from patients and use them to produce living medicines, tailored to target a patient’s specific tumours. With an eye to the future, we are working toward next-generation cell therapies where physicians could potentially select from a library of patient-ready therapies already developed from the cells of healthy donors.

We have the expertise, resources, and capabilities that make up a world-class oncology discovery organisation focused on advancing cell therapy beyond today’s state of the art technologies. We believe in the potential of our work to transform cancer care and to help patients live full lives.

Cell therapy – transforming oncology’s future

Cell therapies have the potential to transform oncology treatment. This is why we are building an innovative cell therapy strategy with a bold vision: a future that is about doing more than fighting cancer – it’s about focusing on curing it, once and for all.

“The next decade is about the emergence of curative medicines for cancer,” says Mark Cobbold, Head of the Oncology Cell Therapy unit, “we are energized to be bringing together a team with the expertise and experience to develop those breakthroughs.”

We understand the complexity and diversity of approaches that must align to build and deliver cell therapies. Our end-to-end approach brings all of the pieces together: access to numerous cell types; gene-editing capabilities; a spectrum of therapies to explore in combination; in-house manufacturing capabilities that facilitate innovation and speed; and commercialisation expertise.

Our depth of experience, resources and commitment to oncology uniquely positions us to develop such multidisciplinary approaches. Our operating model unites people from all functions to proactively work together at all stages of development. The Oncology Cell Therapy Unit is a global organisation that allows experts around the world to be part of our discoveries everywhere.

Such collaborative work is already generating promise. “Our cell therapy teams are moving multiple assets toward the clinic,” says Attilio Bondanza, Head of Clinical Development for the Oncology Cell Therapy Unit. “Our clinical team is a dynamic group of expert physicians and scientists united by a passion for this field, and we are moving fast to further expand this part of our organisation.”

Working with our Oncology Cell Therapy Team

The path to transform the future of cancer care is challenging, but our teams are undaunted by ambiguity and energised by problem solving.

“We motivate our teams through empowerment, creating a culture where everyone has a voice,” says Karen Hodgkin, Head of Operations at AstraZeneca’s Oncology Cell Therapy Unit. “We learn from each other, welcome diverse perspectives, and respect individual expertise.”

There are limitless opportunities to make your mark, take smart risks and pioneer new ideas. While diverse in experience and approach, our team shares a love of science, a drive to discover what’s possible and an ambition to be the leaders that take cell therapy in new directions. With the proven capability to bring truly transformative medicines to patients, this intersection makes us one of the most exciting places to work in oncology.  


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1. Wang  Z, Cao  YJ.  Adoptive Cell Therapy Targeting  Neoantigens:  A  Frontier for Cancer Research. Front Immunol.2020;11:176.Lim WA, June CH. The Principles of Engineering Immune Cells to Treat Cancer. Cell.2017;168(4):724-740.

Veeva ID: Z4-40876
Date of preparation: December 2021