A cancer treatment that stimulates the immune system and has been successfully tested in mice will soon be the subject of clinical trials in humans.
Will we soon be able to cure cancer with a simple injection? This is the hope of a discovery made by researchers at Stanford University in the United States.
Their study, published at the end of January in the journal Translation Science Medicine showed that injection of two immunostimulatory agents directly into the tumor allowed to target and destroy the cancer cells. This combined treatment causes an immune response and can be easily administered by injection, hence the qualification by scientists of "vaccine" against cancer, even if it is technically not one. Until now tested on mice, it will soon be the subject of clinical trials on humans.
A treatment that reactivates immune cells
The "vaccine" developed by researchers consists of two types of safe "immunostimulatory agents". The first, an antibody called anti-OX40, activates CD4 T cells, auxiliary cells communicating with other immune cells. It also activates the "killer" CD8 cells that release chemicals that destroy the malignant cells. The other vaccine agent is a short stretch of synthetic DNA that allows the immune cells to produce a surface protein called TLR9 ligand. This protein in turn stimulates the production of antibodies that leads to the creation of specialized memory cells. This will recognize the malignant cells if they reappear in the future.
"Immune cells like T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often found in cancer cells and infiltrate to attack the tumor," says Stanford Medicine Magazine. However, as the tumor develops, she often imagines ways to suppress T-cell activity. The method developed by Dr. Levy works to reactivate cancer-specific T cells by injecting microgram quantities of two agents directly into the site. of the tumor. "
An efficiency rate of 97%
Injected into solid tumors of mice, the vaccine activated the immune system in a localized way, targeting cancer cells and leaving healthy cells intact. The vaccine not only eliminated 97% of mouse lymphomas, but also eliminated secondary malignancies resulting from the original cancerous tumors. In addition, say the researchers, this treatment would be effective against several types of cancer.
"When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors throughout the body.This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and does not require complete activation of the immune system or personalization. immune cells of a patient, "says Dr. Ronald Levy, professor of oncology and lead author of the study on mice in an interview with Stanford Medicine Magazine.
An alternative to chemotherapy?
Researchers now want to test the efficacy of treatment in humans with a subtype of low-grade non-Hodgkin's lymphoma called B-cell lymphoma. They hope to recruit a total of 35 adult patients to form two study groups from here the end of the year. The purpose of the trial will be to determine the optimal dose of treatment and to review side effects.
"All these advances in immunotherapy are changing medical practice," says Dr. Levy in the interview. Indeed, if it proves effective this vaccine can soon be used as a rapid and effective cancer therapy without subjecting patients to chemotherapy.