Engineered peptides show promise in cancer immunotherapy

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

In a new study published today in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have designed a new method for developing immunotherapy drugs using engineered peptides to elicit a natural immune response inside the body.

In preclinical models of locally advanced and metastatic breast cancer, this method improved tumor control and prolonged survival, both as a monotherapy and in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Amino acids are the building blocks of life and, when a few of them are linked together, they create a peptide. All the biological functions performed by our body are done by proteins and peptides, so our goal was to find a way to redesign these small molecules to possess the unique ability to activate our immune system."

Betty Kim, M.D., Ph.D., senior author, professor of Neurosurgery

The body's immune system is built to patrol and identify infected or diseased cells to eliminate, but cancer cells often exploit weaknesses in the immune system to avoid detection. The goal of immunotherapy is to bolster the body's natural ability to identify and destroy cancer cells. Current immune checkpoint inhibitors are antibodies designed to block specific immune signaling pathways.

The engineered peptide improves the immune system's ability to detect and destroy cancer cells in a unique way. Rather than using an external compound to initiate a response, or harvesting and modifying immune cells for cell therapies, the peptide serves as a messenger to activate specific signaling pathways in immune cells to boost their performance.

"These findings open a whole new avenue for developing immunotherapy drugs. By using designed polypeptides, we can potently activate immune signaling pathways to enhance anti-tumor responses. Additionally, since these are naturally derived agents, we anticipate the toxicity profile would be significantly better than with synthetic compounds," said co-corresponding author Wen Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Radiation Oncology.

This study was supported by the National Cancer Institute (CA241070) and the U.S. Department of Defense.

Journal reference:

Lee, D., et al. (2024). Synthetic cationic helical polypeptides for the stimulation of antitumour innate immune pathways in antigen-presenting cells. Nature Biomedical Engineering.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
What is the ‘immune self,’ and how can this concept benefit immunological research?