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The University of Southampton

Southampton student joins the fight against cancer to help families like his own

Published: 2 February 2024
James Christian

A University of Southampton student has been spurred on in the fight against cancer after both his parents were diagnosed with the disease.

PhD student James Christian is working to develop a vaccine that will boost the immune system to track down and destroy cancer.

And his research at the university’s groundbreaking Centre for Cancer Immunology has been brought closer to home due to his family’s close connection with the disease.

Mum Juliette received treatment for breast cancer in 2020, while his dad Paul is currently receiving chemotherapy.

James, 23, said: “If I can help my mum and dad then that’s of course what I want to do, but even if I can’t, I’ll be helping someone else’s parents, or someone else’s child or friend in the future.

“Cancer will affect everyone in one way or another, and we must do all we can to help as many people as possible. I’ve seen both my parents go through rounds and rounds of treatment and get hit by this poison until either the cancer gives up or you do.

“Thankfully, my dad’s side effects are not too bad at the moment but that’s not the case for everyone.”


James Christian in research lab

James began his PhD in September, with his studies part-funded by the university’s Cancer Immunology Fund.

Ahead of Sunday’s World Cancer Day, James is raising awareness of immunotherapy and how the COVID-19 virus could be used in the treatment of cancer.

“So many people’s lives are affected by cancer but the immune system has the power to fight this horrible disease,” he said.

“The immune system is a wonderful thing and because it is so flexible, it can target certain types of cancer. I’ll be taking the COVID-19 virus, something that 94 per cent of us have strong immunity against and modifying it to turn those existing immune defences against cancer instead.

“Immunotherapy is a promising treatment for cancer with fewer side effects, and we need to get to a point where that is the usual treatment people have – but more research is needed to get to that point, and I hope that my PhD will go some way in getting us there.”

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