Scientists develop immune-stimulating injections against cancer

A team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed two immune-stimulating injections that removed all traces of cancer when injected directly into solid mouse tumors.

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In the study, which was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the immune-stimulating injections were shown to not only kill cancer cells within the tumors, but also kill the metastases present distantly at other sites in the body.

Experts say this is one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern day cancer research, and is likely to benefit millions of cancer patients as it is effective against various cancers.

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy.

When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body. This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn't require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient's immune cells."

Dr Ronald Levy, Professor of Oncology at Stanford Medical School.

According to Professor Levy, this system does not activate the body’s immune system in general but targets the tumor cells specifically. This serves to bypass the severe immune reaction.

One of the injections is already approved for human use, whilst the other is currently in clinical trials for unrelated conditions. A clinical trial for using both the injections in combination began in January 2018, it will assess the effectiveness of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Immunotherapy approaches mainly stimulate the body’s immune system and therefore sometimes promote the growth of cancer growth at regulated sites. Alternatively, CAR T-cell therapy is a process by which the immune cells are taken from the patient and genetically modified to kill the cancer cells specifically.

The problem with these approaches are the difficulty in administration, high costs and challenges of adverse effects.

Levy said immunotherapy has changed medical science significantly. The new approach uses small amounts of two agents that can stimulate the immune cells within the cancer specifically.

Cancer is caused by a lack of the immune system to detect unregulated growth of damaged cells. As the cancer grows, it formulates new methods to escape the surveillance of T cells in the immune system. In the new method, the injections reactivate the cancer-specific T cells.

The new drugs consist of a short DNA fragment called a CpG oligonucleotide and an antibody that binds to OX40, an activating receptor found on the surface of T cells. Activation of T cells by the antibody allows them to recognize and attack the cancer cells.

The team injected 90 mice with the drugs and found that 87 of them were able to get rid of the cancer cells.

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