Dual-action cancer treatment supercharges immune cells

Friday, 29 September, 2017

Western Australian researchers have developed a new cancer treatment with the dual ability to normalise tumour blood vessels and boost the body’s immune system. Their work has been published in the journal Nature Immunology.

Many tumours can become resistant to the body’s immune system by creating a barrier of tangled blood vessels that feed the tumour while locking out immune cells that would attack cancer cells. The new treatment works by generating more ‘normal’ blood vessels and lymph-node-like structures within the cancer, which together enable immune cells to better reach the cancer core.

“Lymph nodes, a vital component of our immune system, normally only exist outside of the cancer and work to filter cancer cells and generate white blood cells that fight infection,” said lead author Professor Ruth Ganss, from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.

“Our drug strengthens the immune response against tumours by inducing these lymph-node-like structures together with normalised blood vessels, producing immune cells that infiltrate deep into the cancer. There are currently no single treatments available which can produce these two features in cancers.

“Our research shows that once our drug has triggered the lymph-node-like structures within the cancer, current immunotherapies that have been approved for clinical use can work more effectively.”

The researchers have so far tested their treatment on pancreas and lung cancer models — which are particularly difficult to treat, according to Professor Ganss — and have had very promising results. They are now looking to develop combination immunotherapies in order to enhance outcomes for patients in the future.

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