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Combining two agents could revolutionize cancer treatment
Researchers have succeeded in injecting two immunostimulating substances directly into solid tumors. As a result, metastases were eliminated and even completely removed. The new method could lead to an effective treatment of cancer in the future.
The researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that tiny amounts of two immunostimulating agents can be injected directly into solid tumors to remove metastases. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Science Translational Medicine".
Side effects could be avoided by the treatment
At the work of the researchers, the injection into mice eliminated all traces of cancer in the animals, including untreated metastases, the authors explain. The approach works for many different types of cancer, including those that arise spontaneously. Doctors believe that topical application of very small amounts of the drug could serve as a quick and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy. The researchers added that unpleasant side effects of body-wide immune stimulation could probably be avoided by the treatment.
Combination of the agents removes tumors throughout the body
"When we use these two agents together, we see the removal of tumors throughout the body. This approach circumvents the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and does not require extensive activation of the immune system or adaptation of a patient's immune cells, ”explains study author Dr. Ronald Levy in a press release from Stanford University School of Medicine.
New study analyzes effectiveness in humans
One active substance is currently approved for use in humans, the other active substance has already been tested in several independent studies for human use. A clinical trial started in January to test the effect of the treatment on patients with lymphoma. Dr. Levy is considered a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Research conducted in his laboratory has already led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies to be approved as an anti-cancer treatment in humans.
How do immunotherapies work?
Some immunotherapies rely on stimulating the immune system throughout the body. Others are targeting naturally occurring checkpoints that limit the anti-cancer activity of immune cells, the scientists explain. Still others, such as CAR-T cell therapy, which has recently been approved for the treatment of some types of leukemia and lymphoma, require the removal of a patient's immune cells from the body. These are then genetically modified to attack tumor cells.
The effects on the tumors were amazing
“Our approach uses a single application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only inside the tumor itself. We observed amazing body-wide effects in the mice, including the removal of tumors throughout the animal, ”explains Dr. Levy.
When tumors grow, they suppress the activity of T cells
Cancer often exists in a strange kind of limbo related to the immune system. Immune cells (such as T cells) recognize the abnormal proteins that are often present on cancer cells to attack the tumor. However, as the tumor grows, ways are often found to suppress T cell activity.
87 out of 90 mice were cured by cancer treatment
Since the two drugs are injected directly into the tumor, only T cells that have infiltrated them are activated. Some of these tumor-specific, activated T cells then leave the original tumor in order to find and destroy other identical tumors throughout the body, the doctors explain. The approach works surprisingly well in laboratory mice with transplanted mouse lymphoma tumors in two places on their bodies. Injection into a tumor caused not only regression of the treated tumor, but also of the second, untreated tumor. In this way, 87 out of 90 mice were cured of cancer. Although the cancer recurred in three of the mice, the tumors regressed after a second treatment. The researchers observed similar results in mice with breast, colon and melanoma tumors. "I don't think there is a limit to the type of tumor that we could potentially treat as long as the tumor was infiltrated by the immune system," said expert Dr. Levy in the press release. (as)