American scientists have developed a vaccine to treat and prevent brain cancer by redirecting cancer cells.
- Brain cancers are called gliomas because they are linked to tumors in glia cells.
- Glioblastoma is the most common brain cancer in adults.
- According to Santé Publique France, nearly 3,500 new cases of glioblastoma were detected in 2018.
Hijacking cells to make them tools in the fight against cancer: this is the innovative project of a research team from Harvard Medical School. These scientists are working on a method to transform cancer cells into anti-cancer agents. Their work has appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Hijacking cancer cells to make them anti-cancer tools
“Our team followed a simple idea: take cancer cells and turn them into cancer killers and vaccines.”explains the lead author of the research, Khalid Shah, director of the Center for Stem Cell and Translational Immunotherapy (CSTI) from Harvard and Vice Chairman of Research in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston).
Together with his colleagues, he relied on cell therapy methods. “Using genetic engineering, we repurpose cancer cells to develop a treatment that kills tumor cells and boosts the immune system to both destroy primary tumors and prevent cancer.” One of the specificities of this work is the use of live cancer cells, because the other studies on the subject are based usually on inactivated cells.
“Like carrier pigeons returning to roost, living tumor cells travel long distances through the brain to return to the site of their tumor counterparts.”, compare the authors in a press release. This characteristic of the cells was the basis of the team’s work: modifying the cells so that they become “tumor cell killing agents”. “The engineered tumor cells were engineered to express factors that would make them easy to spot, mark and remember by the immune system, preparing it for a long-term anti-tumor response.”add the authors.
Anti-cancer vaccine proves its worth in mice
This innovative vaccine has been proven in mice with glioblastoma, the most common and very aggressive form of brain tumour. Scientists have succeeded in reorienting tumor cells from interferon-β (IFN-β) through “scissors genetic“, called CRISPR. In a second step, they programmed them to release “officers immunomodulators“.”These modified therapeutic tumor cells (ThTC) cleared established glioblastoma tumors in mice.”conclude the authors.
Among the various tests carried out, some relied on cells derived from humans, to reproduce the “human immune microenvironment“Scientists observed greater animal survival and long-term immunity to primary, recurrent and metastatic cancers.”This dual-action cell therapy was safe, applicable, and effective in these models, suggesting a roadmap for developing a therapy.”they continue.
At the moment, further tests and trials are needed. “Our goal is to take an innovative yet translatable approach in humans in order to be able to develop a therapeutic cancer vaccine that will have a lasting impact on medicine.”develops Khalid Shah.
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