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Trained immune cells raise prospect of universal cancer vaccine

Trained immune cells raise pro...
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Engineering immune cells to attack cancer is a form of treatment that is showing great promise, but it is complex because it involves extracting and modifying T cells before injecting them back into the body. Scientists have now demonstrated a way to not just arm immune cells while still inside the body, but equip them with the ability to fight any kind of cancer, providing an early proof-of-concept for a cheap, universal vaccine for the deadly disease.

Known as adoptive immunotherapy, the idea that our immune cells can be engineered to fight cancer has been explored by scientists since the 1980's. Some seriously encouraging advances have been made in the last few years, most recently through a trial involving patients with advanced blood cancer that yielded unprecedented response rates of more than 93 percent.

The technique works by harvesting the body's T cells, which play a central role in the immune response, and arming them with cancer-recognizing molecules through gene transfer. Known as chimeric antigen receptors, these molecules give the modified cells the ability to spot proteins on cancer cells once they are injected back into the body, at which point they latch on and start to kill them off.

While hugely promising, this method relies on the unique properties of blood cancer for the modified T cells to lock onto their target. Scientists have been unable to apply this approach to solid tumors where such clear markers aren't readily available, meaning the immune cells have trouble distinguishing healthy cells from cancerous ones.

But German scientists are now reporting an immunotherapy breakthrough that is significant in more ways than one. Led by Professor Ugur Sahin from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, the team says it has worked out how to train immune calls in a way that is not only cheap and fast, but can be tuned to attack any type of cancer.

They begin with a snippet of the targeted cancer's genetic RNA code, which they encase in a fatty membrane. The scientists were able to give these particles, which they have dubbed RNA-LPX, a negative charge by fine-tuning the ratio of RNA to fatty membrane. Once injected into the bloodstream, this mild electrical charge guides the particles towards the body's dendritic immune cells, which are cells that specify targets for the immune system to attack.

Once they come together, the dendritic cells react to the RNA code to bring about the production of specific cancer antigens, which are molecules that brand a foreign invader as a threat so that other immune cells can get to work. This kickstarts an immune response and the production of a throng of T cells ready to take up the fight.

The scientists tested the new technology in three melanoma patients and mice, not with the aim of eliminating tumors but to establish whether they could steer the immune system in their direction. And they found that it did indeed induce a "profound" expansion of T cells, suggesting that the technique can help the body's defences catch some of the many cancers that slip through the net.

But perhaps the most promising aspect of this new technology is its versatility. "Virtually any tumor antigen can be encoded by RNA," the researchers write, meaning that so long as a tumor sample can be taken and a genetic profile can be created, the RNA-LPX particles can be programmed to fight virtually any kind of cancer.

With such a small sample size, there is clearly still some ways to go to prove its effectiveness and for a universal vaccine to enter clinical use. But evidence of an approach that stimulates an army of multi-cancer-fighting T cells that would otherwise lay dormant while being surrounded by the enemy is some exciting new territory.

The research paper was published in the journal Nature.

Source: Nature via The Independent

9 comments
snowbaron
the pharma industry will kill anything like that as they make millions out of their non working treatments!
Doc Blake
Interesting, our immune system has been doing this all along. Cancer cells show up, and our immune system attacks and kills them. It is only when our immunity becomes weak that this very fine cancer defense system is unable to preform this function. But modern medicine doesn't have time for that, that would admit that the cause of cancer is linked to a weakened immunity. And anyone with half a brain knows that when you understand that obvious fact, then the simple cure is staring you right in the face!...But that simple cure is standing in the way of another vaccine, and the big buck$, well dha! ---Can't wait to see the inflated price tag, and what kind of bizarre side effects that will bring?
Tanstar
This wouldn't be a universal vaccine, but a universal way to make targeted vaccines. A great advance, for certain, but the title made it sound like something anyone could be injected with so they wouldn't have to worry about ever getting cancer.
peritaxi
Here's another "Pharma-Bro" can't get to it and immediately turn fast and cheap into horrifically expensive and available only after your net worth is verified.
chris2244
It is NOT T-cells which initiate immune response and kill cancer cells!!! That function belongs to MACROPHAGES. One of the best thesis on the topic of basics in immunology and importance of macrophages can be found at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a446266.pdf The title of this work: "In Vitro toxicity of aluminum nanoparticles in rat alveolar macrophages". It seems like the official 'science', is urgently trying to redefine day as night, in these terrible times of global lies...
chris2244
The author of this article can't interpret 'science' properly. Please read the abstract of the Nature article. There is not a single word about T-cells fighting cancer. There is however an interesting link to macrophages... As said in previous comment, macrophages seem to be the only immune block, which works INDEPENDENTLY from antibodies, the very reason why vaccinations are applied in the first place!! Thus while having working macrophages, activated ONLY by GcMAF (reason for last year death of Dr. Bradstreet, one of the best specialists on the topic of autism), one wouldn't need any vaccinations, possibly, and while having working macrophages, one would directly KILL THE CANCER CELLS, in a HEALTHY, NORMAL WAY, without ANY ARTIFICIAL GENETICS INVOLVED!!! The toxic and cancerous vaccine adjuvants are the ones which contribute to 'killing' macrophages, in order to make the entire antibody production possible, for a short while, while using huge amount of energy to produce them. For the entire CANCER SCAM IN MODERN MEDICINE, please watch Ty Bollinger documetaries : "The Truth About Cancer". >130 scientists dare to open their mouths and speak out the truth..
David A Galler
This is a very optimistic development .Let us notl et it be suppressed.
Wolf0579
I can see almost the entire medical field not getting behind this due to potential profit loss... If you think the amount of money arrayed against the Affordable Care Act was a record breaker, wait till this hits the presses.
guzmanchinky
That is fantastic! And no, I don't agree that this will be swept under some pharma company rug. Too many conspiracy theorists out there... Innovations like this (in a time like this, where information is dispersed globally, instantly, through mediums such as this one) can never be fully contained by anyone.