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This content is taken from the University of Birmingham's online course, Cancer Immunotherapy: a Step Change in Cancer Treatment. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 15 secondsBEN WILCOX: I'm Professor Ben Wilcox, directive of the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Centre in Birmingham. In this course, you're going to hear myself, Dr. Heather Long, and other scientists based here at the University of Birmingham, as well as a fellow clinicians based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. We're all interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that our immune system uses to combat disease. Of course, are specific aim here in the CIIC grouping is to harness this knowledge to design new cancer treatments that improve patient outcomes. And you're going to hear about some of these treatments as the course progresses. We've divided our course up into three weeks worth of material, which you can study at your own pace.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 secondsWe use videos like this to teach you about the immune system and about we might harness it to fight cancer. And we will supplement video as text documents, where you can read more details. We've also added web links in our documents and resources section so that those of you who wish to extend your knowledge have some good pointers to reliable sources of information. Hello. My name is Dr. Heather Long. In week one of our course, we'll call it the foundation week, if you like. Our major goal is to describe what we actually mean when we talk about our immune system, what does it do, and where is it in our bodies.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 secondsWe will be taking you into the laboratory to introduce you to some of the specialised immune cells of the body. And you'll also learn about the jobs they do for us. This information will be important later, and we will build on it as the course develops.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 secondsHEATHER LONG: And another critical message of this first week is just how important our immune system is the survival. To emphasise this, you will learn about what happens to those unfortunate individuals who don't have a fully-functioning immune system. We'll also consider what happens if your immune system is too active. Our immune system is incredibly powerful and as therefore evolved to the carefully controlled. You will learn how this control happens and how when it is disrupted, there are major implications for your health. As you will learn later in the course, this ideal is also really important when we think about cancer immunotherapist that try to increase the strength of the immune response.

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 secondsFinally, you'll find out how our ability to safely harnessed the power of the immune system using preventative vaccines has had a massive impact on human health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 secondsBEN WILCOX: Later on in the course, in week two, we will begin to explore cancer and how it interacts with the immune system. You'll learn how our views of what cancer is have change massively over history, what are its fundamental biological properties, and you will war on cancer is increasingly prevalent. Crucially, you will learn why cancer prevents such a formidable challenge for the immune system's control and dirty tricks cancer always used to avoid immune attack. In week three, you will learn how immunotherapies actually work, both in terms of the mechanisms they exploit, and also the effect they have on patients. Although, there are many different types of immunotherapy, we will focus on to the most exciting new strategies.

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 secondsThese include new antibody therapies that release the brakes on the immune system and secondly on the idea of engineering patient's immune cells with designer receptors to fight cancer. Both of these therapeutic approaches have shown dramatic effects in some tumours and have contributed to to cancer immunotherapy being hailed as a turning point in the fight against cancer. We will also focus on innovations being made in the CIIC grouping in Birmingham to develop the next step changes in an other areas.

Welcome to the course video

In this video your lead educators, Professor Ben Willcox and Dr Heather Long, introduce themselves and briefly explain what the course will be covering over the next three weeks.

Please feel free to ‘follow’ any member of the course team by clicking on their name below. This will mean that you can see any of their comments throughout the course.

Meet the team

You may wish to follow the members of the team so that you can easily see their comments. Click on their name, and then click the pink ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of their profile.


Ben Willcox

Heather Long


Benjamin Meckiff

Vanessa Tubb

We would like to welcome you to the course and learn more about why you are here. Please add to the comments below answering the following questions:

  • What do you hope to get out of this course?

  • What do you want to learn about the emerging field of immunotherapy?

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This video is from the free online course:

Cancer Immunotherapy: a Step Change in Cancer Treatment

University of Birmingham