A Major breakthrough in Cancer Immunotherapy – Technicity

Two New Yale Studies show great promise in enhancing the immune system’s response to the presence of Cancer

Cancer is rapidly becoming the leading cause of death in many countries. A major new study conducted in the high, middle & low-income countries has concluded that Cancer has actually overtaken cardiovascular diseases as the number one cause of death in high-income countries.

Numerous studies have been conducted to find ways to effectively tackle & eliminate this deadly disease. One such trial is to expose the cancer cells to the zero-gravity environment of space — disrupting the ability of cancer affected cells to communicate with each other.

Researchers & doctors are now realizing, that at the end of the day, it’s the human immune system that is much more effective at eliminating this menace. Immunotherapy has actually shown great promise to treat different kinds of cancers.

The process involves removing the patient’s T-cells & programming them to target individual cancer cells before injecting them back into the body. The breakthrough technique is so effective that it has earned scientists the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine (infographic below).

In addition to that, two separate mouse studies at Yale have reinforced this idea. The first one involved the molecule called Stem Loop RNA 14 (SLR14) to draw the attention of the immune system. The SLR14 molecule had been originally developed to fight viruses in the body by alerting the immune system of the latter’s presence.

The top two images show T cells with the “brakes” on (CTLA-4 and PD-1), while in the bottom images antigens (green) have been introduced to release those brakes and improve the immune system’s response to cancer Credit: Mattias Karlén/The Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine

The team then conducted various tests to see the kind of response this molecule evokes from the immune system against the cancer cells.

⑴ For the first test, the team injected the SLR14 molecule directly into cancer tumors present in the mice. Animal T-cells successfully destroyed cancer cells.

⑵ The researchers were also able to verify that administering this immunotherapy to one location of the tumor was also able to respond to other tumor affected areas as well.

⑶ The third experiment was perhaps the most promising one where researchers induced metastasis — by spreading cancer cells through the mice’s bloodstream. SLR14 was still able to clean up the cancer cells.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the immune system can keep a memory record of the cancerous cells, thus preventing them from reappearing later. The second Yale study involved a different form of cancer immunotherapy — which involved employing a new version of the CRISPR gene-editing tool. The new tool was used to identify hidden genes that are associated with cancer.

“This is an entirely new form of immunotherapy, And once those cells are identified, the immune system immediately recognizes them if they show up in the future.” ~ Sidi Chen, senior author of the study

Dubbed as the MAEGI (Multiplexed Activation of Endogenous Genes as Immunotherapy), the tool goes on a hunt of thousands of different cancer-related genes. Once found, it marks their location & calls upon the immune system to neutralized them. The MAEGI acts like a biological GPS.

MAEGI proved effective against melanoma and triple-negative breast and pancreatic tumors in mice trials — reducing or completely eliminating the cancer cells. It was even able to hunt down cancer cells residing elsewhere.

With both trials showing great promise, teams are now preparing for human trials. Look for more details on SLR14 study in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, while MAEGI research was published in Nature Immunology.

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