Using a novel stem cell based technology of Cellonis Biotechnologies, Beijing, a Chinese research/medical team may eliminate a glioma -- brain cancer -- of a 36 year old Norwegian patient in a hospital in Beijing. The treatment shows that the activated immune system can directly kill tumor stem cells as well as cancer daughter cells. The amazing outcome of this novel treatment within a Comprehensive Cancer Therapy tells Cellonis that the future vaccination therapies may be targeted towards cancer stem cell lysates to improve the antigen-presenting Dendritic Cell response.
Arve Johnsen, 36, from Norway, a patient diagnosed with glioma in 2006 and relapsed in 2009 after surgical resection. He arrived in Beijing in August 2009 with his wife Vanja and a one-year-old daughter, with the hope that the doctors in Norway were wrong. They told the family there is no other option anymore in the Scandinavian countries or in Europe for Arve to control the progress of disease and prolong his life. Driven by the hope that their daughter could grow up with a father, the Johnsen family started a research campaign to find other treatments worldwide, to give Arve a new hope.
Comprehensive Cancer Therapy in China
The Johnsen's, having heard about the sustainable success of a Comprehensive Cancer Therapy (CCT) in China, decided to try for this last chance in a country 10,000 km away from Norway. This kind of CCT had been developed in the past few years by a Chinese team of scientific researchers and clinical doctors in Beijing, combining conventional cancer treatments with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and cell therapies.
The role of cancer stem cells in the tumors
Scientists previously believed that tumors are lumps of cancer tissue that must be completely removed or destroyed to cure a patient. But over the past few years, researchers have learned that cancer stem cells (CSCs), comprising a small population of cells, appear to be responsible for the initiation, upkeep and relapse of malignant tumors. Even if a tumor is almost completely obliterated, it will regenerate from the surviving CSCs and become even more resistant to treatment than before.
Current therapies, including cell therapy, generally do not target CSCs. This allows CSCs to survive until after chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Killing those cells is a promising strategy to eliminate tumors and prevent them from re-growing.
Prof. Lily Shum: Perfect integration of stem cells and immunotherapies
"The CSCs may explain why common treatments, particularly chemotherapy, are not sufficient to kill tumors. In fact, despite the continuous development of new chemotherapeutic agents, brain tumors can develop and remain resistant to those therapies. The integration of stem cells and immune technologies seems to give us a chance to find out a new way to target at CSCs," says Prof. Lily Shum, PhD, the chief scientist of Cellonis.
"The difficult issue in our project is how to capture and classify CSCs. With our patented technologies, we are able to isolate the CSCs from patient's brain tumor tissues, culture them and induce the multi-drug and radiation resistance. These cells possess very strong carcinogenicity, self-renewal, and also a very strong drug and radiation resistance."
Lily Shum adds, "The Dendritic Cell (DC) is a very useful tool to conduct a specific immune response against brain CSCs." As we know, DC is an antigen-presenting cell that stimulates the innate immune system, as a messenger, it transfers "the information of cancer cell - antigen" to "the killers of the immune system - the T cells," and then T cells can recognize and lyse cells bearing those antigens. "We educate the DC with the brain CSCs, and then conduct the specific immune response which targets the CSCs."
Dr. Dinggang Li: Comprehensive Cancer Therapies
"The outcome of the first pilot study with Johnsen is amazing. The PET-CT scan for Johnsen shows that all the tumor disappeared after the treatment," says Dr. Dinggang Li, M.D. PhD. He has developed and conducted CCT for more than 100 international cancer patients in the past few years. DCs loaded with different kinds of brain cancer related antigens that target cancer cells and the CIK cell treatment are the main elements of his comprehensive treatment for cancer. "In the first cycle of treatment, we treated him with comprehensive approaches including SHG-44 loading DC, CIK cell therapy and TCM, but we had not been able to control the progression of the disease, the tumors continued to grow. We gave him the DC therapy which targets brain CSCs in the 2nd cycle of treatment, and it showed a very promising response."
Dr. Cindy HAO: More clinical trials to confirm the outcome
Cindy HAO, M.D., CEO of Cellonis Biotechnologies is optimistic for the future of this new brain cancer approach. "It gives us a strong confidence to make more efforts toward this direction. This pilot treatment study shows us that the activated immune system can directly kill tumor stem cells as well as tumor daughter cells. But first of all we need to extend our further clinical trials to confirm the outcome. And it also tells us that the future vaccination therapies may be targeted toward Cancer Stem Cell Lysates to improve the antigen-presenting DC response."