Nav: Home

New immunotherapy inhibits tumor growth and protects against metastases

August 24, 2018

Scientists at the VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology have taken important steps forward in the development of a cancer-targeting immunotherapy. The research team developed a treatment in mice that destroys part of the tumor and stimulates the immune system to attack persistent surviving cancer cells. In addition, the researchers demonstrated that the treatment provides protection against the development of tumor formation in other areas of the body. Their findings have been published in the renowned academic journal Nature Communications.

Chemo- and radiotherapy are effective in reducing tumor size, but they unfortunately also affect healthy cells. The human immune system is a more accurate weapon, which has evolved to recognize and eliminate disease-causing cells. However, cancer cells employ a range of different strategies to confuse and thwart the immune system. Immunotherapies, which help stimulate the immune system to better identify specific cancer cells, show promising results, but are still in need of a great deal of improvement.

An example for the immune system

The team of Prof. Xavier Saelens (VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology) seeks to enhance immunotherapy approaches in an inventive way by provoking a certain type of cell death, called necroptosis, in cancer cells. Previous VIB research has demonstrated that when cells die from necroptosis, the immune system is alarmed.

PhD student Lien Van Hoecke (VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology): "This phenomenon is also called immunogenic cell death, as the dying cells become examples for the immune system, which then learns and remembers which cells to search for and attack."

Dual effect

Building on that knowledge, the team went looking for a way to provoke necroptosis in cancer cells and thus 'teach' the immune system how to attack tumors. The researchers explored MLKL, a protein that plays a crucial role in necroptosis, for their research goal.

Lien Van Hoecke (VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology): "We developed an immune therapy that causes part of the cancer cells to produce MLKL. As a result, these cancer cells die. The dead cells then activate the immune system, which attacks tumor cells that survived the initial treatment."

Prof. Xavier Saelens (VIB-UGent Center for Medical Biotechnology): "Our treatment not only inhibits primary tumor growth in mice, but also provides protection against untreated tumors and disseminated tumors. This is because the immune system is able to recognize cancer cells located in other areas of the body after confronting destroyed cells in the treated tumor. The outcomes of our study open up a number of avenues for the application of this therapy in humans."

Publication

Treatment with mRNA coding for the necroptosis mediator MLKL induces antitumor immunity directed against neo-epitopes, Van Hoecke et al., Nature Communications 2018

Questions from patients

A breakthrough in research is not the same as a breakthrough in medicine. The realizations of VIB researchers can form the basis of new therapies, but the development path still takes years. This can raise a lot of questions. That is why we ask you to please refer questions in your report or article to the email address that VIB makes available for this purpose: patienteninfo@vib.be. Everyone can submit questions concerning this and other medically-oriented research directly to VIB via this address
-end-


VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".