Published: Sat, February 03, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Medical Information Right this moment: One injection may kill most cancers

Medical Information Right this moment: One injection may kill most cancers

Scientists from Stanford University are now reporting an exciting new advance in the field, discovering that a single injection of immune-stimulating agents can quickly destroy tumors in mice, and promisingly, clinical trials investigating its effects in humans are already underway.

The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.

"Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumour itself", Levy said.

This vaccine avoids the need to identify tumor-specific immunity targets and does not require the significant activation of the immune system, or to personalize the immune cells of the patient. The clinical trial now underway is expected to recruit 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma to see if the treatment works on humans.

Levy is now recruiting 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma to trial the treatment.

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However, the new treatment harnesses the immune system's own ability to recognise cancer cells and infiltrate tumours.

Researchers have done early-stage clinical trials with personalized melanoma vaccines and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two different treatments for blood cancer based on genetically modified immune cells.

Levy's method works by reactivating cancer-specific T cells that play a central role in immunity. The other binds to that same receptor and amplifies the T cells' response to kill the tumor.

The approach involves injecting microgram amounts of two agents directly into a tumour site.

These cells get to work on the tumour, but some of the T cells then leave the site of the tumour to find and destroy other tumours in the body.

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Some of the immunotherapy approaches have been effective in treating cancer but there can be a possibility of unwanted side effects. Although secondary tumours recurred in three of the mice, these again regressed after a second treatment. In an experiment where laboratory mice had lymphoma tumors transplanted into two separate sites in their bodies, injecting the agents into one tumor saw the regression of not just that tumor, but also the second that hadn't been injected at all. If successful, he believes it could treat many types of tumors.

Levy and his team also tested the approach on a mouse strain prone to a highly invasive form of breast cancer that often metastasizes, and found that the treatment reduced the size of the injected tumor and nearby cancerous growths.

"We think that this particular combination will be very effective in patients", Levy says.

The study's other Stanford co-authors are senior research assistant and lab manager Debra Czerwinski; professor of medicine Shoshana Levy, PhD; postdoctoral scholar Israt Alam, PhD; graduate student Aaron Mayer; and professor of radiology Sanjiv Gambhir, MD, PhD.

Stanford's Department of Medicine also supported the work.

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