Category Archives: Immuno-Oncology

Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment

Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment
Highlighting a DNA-Based Lymphoma Treatment

One of the benefits of cancer immunotherapy is that it can offer options for patients when other treatments have failed. Doctors are having success with a new DNA-based treatment for certain forms of lymphoma.

CAR T-cell Therapy and Lymphoma

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy (or CAR T-cell therapy) may sound complicated, but the basic principle is simple. CAR T-cell therapy, like most types of cancer immunotherapy, works by boosting the ability of a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.

With this procedure, T-cells are harvested from a patient and genetically engineered to produce surface receptors. The T-cells are then reintroduced into the patient’s system, where the receptors target a specific protein expressed by the lymphoma cells.

Dimas Padilla, a 44-year-old man from Orlando whose lymphoma had returned for a third time, was one of the 101 patients involved in a test of CAR T-cell therapy. Approximately half of the group experienced complete remission. Padilla himself has been tumor-free for 18 months.

Yescarta Wins FDA Approval

In October 2017, the FDA approved this treatment under the trade name Yescarta for use with certain types of B-cell lymphoma. This is only the second gene therapy to pass FDA approval, but at this point usage is restricted to patients who have unsuccessfully undergone at least two other forms of treatment.

Issels®: Personally Developed Cancer Immunotherapy for All Patients

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Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response

Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response
Chemicals that Attract Immune Cells May Speed Immunotherapy Response

It’s said that opposites attract, and scientists are hoping to use that principle to develop more effective immuno oncology treatments. Certain chemicals that are present in tumors might be used to attract cancer-fighting immune cells.

Triggering an Immune Response to Cancer Cells

In a study recently published in Cell, researchers at the Francis Krick Institute found that immune cells known as Natural Killer (NK) cells build up in tumors. These NK cells emit certain chemicals that attract special dendritic cells (cDC1), which are white blood cells that generate an immune response against tumors.

While analyzing data from more than 2,500 patients with skin, breast, lung and neck cancers, the team discovered a correlation between NK cell and cDC1 genes and cancer survival. Similar results occurred with an independent group of breast cancer patients.

Solving a Potential Roadblock

The study also revealed that prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which is produced by some cancer cells, can suppress NK cell activity, thereby limiting the cDC1 response. One solution may be to use aspirin to block PGE2 and its negative effects.

Professor Karen Vousden of Cancer Research UK acknowledged the benefits of the study in revealing more information about the interaction between cancer and the immune system. Vousden also pointed out the importance of such work for improved immuno oncology treatments.

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New Research: Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain

Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain
Computer Modeling and New Drugs to Deactivate Metastasized Breast Cancer in the Brain

Bringing a new immuno oncology drug to market is an expensive and time-consuming proposition. A team of researchers is trying to expedite the process, using computer modeling to find a drug that treats metastasized breast cancer.

Can One Drug Fight Two Types of Cancer?

Triple negative breast cancer is the most difficult form to treat. Once the cancer metastasizes to the brain, survival time is generally shorter. Scientists at Houston Methodist analyzed thousands of current drugs in search of one that could prevent metastasis.

The team’s efforts paid off when they hit on edelfosine, a drug which is FDA-approved for investigational leukemia treatment. Edelfosine has also been the subject of clinical research for primary brain tumors.

In a study to test the discovery, mice were injected with triple negative breast cancer stem cells obtained from patients. The cancer cells metastasized to the brain, but treatment with edelfosine prevented the cells from further growth.

A “Game-Changer” in Immuno Oncology

Dr. Stephen T. Wong, one of the study’s authors, referred to the concept of repurposing drug compounds to prevent metastatic brain cancer as a “game-changer.” In past research, Wong and his co-workers have discovered other drugs that are being repurposed in clinical trials.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Hong Zhao, said they hope to move edelfosine to a phase II clinical study within the next few years. In addition, scientists want to investigate use of the compound on other forms of cancer.

Issels®: Successful Treatment of Therapy-Resistant Cancer

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Coley’s Toxin – the First Immunotherapy?

Coley's Toxin - the First Immunotherapy?
Coley’s Toxin – the First Immunotherapy?

When it comes to cancer treatment, immunotherapy is a hot buzzword right now, but it may not be as new as it seems. Many scientists believe that the first immunotherapy treatments date back to the late 1800s.

Coley’s Toxins: The Original Immunotherapy?

William Coley, a surgeon in turn-of-the-century New York, made a peculiar discovery about one of his patients. Fred Stein, who had been diagnosed with cancer, began making a recovery after contracting a serious infection.

Dr. Coley thought that perhaps bacteria from the infection jump-started Stein’s immune system, causing it to attack the tumors. This experience inspired the doctor to begin treating inoperable cancer patients with bacterial injections that came to be known as Coley’s toxins.

While Coley’s treatments did achieve some success, there was little documentation to support his findings. As a result, the doctor’s peers continued to favor radiation and chemotherapy as cancer treatments of choice.

A Man Ahead of His Time

For all intents and purposes, Dr. Coley’s methods died with him in 1936. Now, more than 80 years later, immunotherapy cancer treatment is “here to stay,” according to Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, chief executive of the Cancer Research Institute.

Immunotherapies known as checkpoint inhibitors are some of the top-selling drugs around the world. Checkpoint inhibitors follow Dr. Coley’s principle of boosting the body’s own immune response.

Dr. Josef M. Issels: A Pioneer of Immunotherapy

We’re proud to carry on the legacy of our founder, Dr. Josef M. Issels, who was also an early proponent of immunotherapy cancer treatment. Contact Issels® for more information about our individually created immunotherapy programs.

UCLA Research Shows Chimeric Antigen Receptors May Boost Immune System Response to Fight Cancer

UCLA Research Shows Chimeric Antigen Receptors May Boost Immune System Response to Fight Cancer
UCLA Research Shows Chimeric Antigen Receptors May Boost Immune System Response to Fight Cancer

Tumors have a number of ways to avoid detection and attack by the body’s immune system, making them difficult to eliminate. In a victory for cancer immunotherapy, scientists have created a synthetic protein with the ability to reverse these defenses.

Overcoming Safeguards of Tumor Cells

Most diseased cells carry proteins called antigens that trigger a response from T cells in the immune system, resulting in neutralization of the threat. In contrast, tumor cells secrete immunosuppressive cytokines, and these soluble proteins disable the immune response from T cells.

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, which received FDA approval in 2017, has been successfully used to treat blood cancers such as leukemia. Unfortunately, these therapies have not had a similar effect on solid tumors.

Making Cancer Work Against Itself

Building on the principle of CARs and their power to counteract the defenses of cancer cells, a team of scientists at UCLA engineered CARs to respond to soluble proteins along with surface-bound antigens. In effect, cancer’s primary weapon ends up acting as an instrument of its own destruction.

Since these CARs are engineered, it opens up the possibility of using this method to create cancer immunotherapy treatments for other applications. The UCLA team has already engineered CARs that respond to various soluble proteins, including transforming growth factor (TGF) beta.

Cancer Immunotherapy: Boosting the Body’s Own Immune System

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Huntington’s Disease Produced Molecules Are Fatal to Cancer Cells

Huntington's Disease Produced Molecules Are Fatal to Cancer Cells
Huntington’s Disease Produced Molecules Are Fatal to Cancer Cells

Could a clue to more effective cancer treatment be found in the biochemistry of another illness? Scientists are hopeful that the gene behind Huntington’s disease could be fatal to cancer cells without harming healthy ones.

What Is Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s disease is a genetically inherited condition that destroys nerve cells in the brain. There is currently treatment but no cure for the disorder, which causes a slowly progressive decline in both cognitive and physical abilities.

The faulty gene that triggers Huntington’s disease contains an excessive number of repeats of a certain sequence of nucleotides, which form the building blocks of DNA and RNA. These sequences create small interfering RNAs, which are molecules that attack specific genes crucial for cell survival.

“Assassin Molecules”

Brain cells in particular are vulnerable to the cell death caused by small interfering RNAs. Cancer cells are also highly susceptible, which is thought to be the reason why Huntington’s disease patients have such a low incidence of cancer.

A research team at Northwestern University tested these so-called “assassin molecules” on human and mouse cancer cells, including brain, breast, colon and ovarian, that were grown in a laboratory. The small interfering RNAs killed all cancer cells from both humans and mice.

Researchers were encouraged that the treatment also showed no toxicity to healthy cells. Further testing is underway to find a more targeted form of delivery.

Targeted Cancer Treatment at Issels®

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