Tag Archives: Cancer Immunotherapy

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 Three-Part Molecule May Decrease Growth of Certain Types of Cancer Tumors

Three-Part Molecule May Decrease Growth of Certain Types of Cancer Tumors
Three-Part Molecule May Decrease Growth of Certain Types of Cancer Tumors

If one is good and two is better, is three the answer? Scientists are hoping that a new three-part molecule could be an answer regarding effective immuno oncology for breast cancer patients.

Stemming the Growth of Breast Cancer Cells

Approximately 20 to 30 percent of breast cancer cases involve over-expression of HER2, which is a growth factor that leads to aggressive multiplication of cancer cells. This acceleration often makes these types of cancer resistant to therapy, resulting in poor prognoses.

Dr. Hongyan Liu, a bioengineer at the Georgia Cancer Center, led a team that developed a chimera, or three-part molecule, to suppress the growth factors. The chimera targets HER2, HER3 and EGFR because one member of the HER “family” can compensate when another one is blocked.

Exploring the Abilities of the Three-Part Molecule

The new molecule is non-toxic, easy to manufacture and relatively cost-effective, making scientists optimistic about its value for immuno oncology. Dr. Liu and her team are currently conducting studies to determine if the chimera can treat cancer that is resistant to Herceptin, a drug that inhibits HER2.

Breast cancer is not the only form that grows due to over-expression of HER receptors. Dr. Liu is hopeful that the chimera will have future applications for lung, head and neck cancers as well.

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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

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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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An Immunotherapy and Ovarian Cancer Success Story

An Immunotherapy and Ovarian Cancer Success Story
An Immunotherapy and Ovarian Cancer Success Story

What happens when a patient responds to cancer immunotherapy that, according to advanced medical knowledge, shouldn’t work? Scientists are studying four recent cases where cancer treatment “broke the rules.”

Exceptions to the Rule?

Four women in different countries, who knew each other only through an online support group, were diagnosed with the same rare form of ovarian cancer. Each one persuaded her doctor to use immunotherapy drugs, despite conventional wisdom that the treatment was useless against ovarian cancer.

Against all odds, the patients responded positively, with their tumors going into remission and the women returning to their normal lives. Researchers are hoping to gain insight that will help develop cancer immunotherapy treatments with a broader range of applications.

Why Doctors Were Caught by Surprise

Tumor cells have an ability to deflect attacks from the body’s immune system, allowing them to multiply freely. Immunotherapy is a way of helping the immune system identify and kill cancer cells.

So far immunotherapy has been successful primarily with lung cancer, melanoma and forms with many genetic mutations. By contrast, hypercalcemic ovarian cancer, which is the form that affected the four women, is driven by a single mutation.

The theory is that a lower number of mutations “tricks” the immune system into disregarding the threat posed by cancer cells. Based on the positive results in the women with ovarian cancer, scientists at Johns Hopkins and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center are conducting trials with the aim of further refining cancer immunotherapy.

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