To make the body's immune system attack the tumour cells effectively, scientists are developing a process that would enable this. †
Their endeavour attains significance because tumours are known for changing just enough to stay out of the place where they may be attacked.
Dr. Yukai He, who recently was named one of the first Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigators, a new initiative to support outstanding young investigators, is now packaging an antigen gene that will alert the immune system in a novel viral vector delivery system while quashing the body's misguided efforts to protect a tumour.
He is working on this project in collaboration with researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the University of Chicago and Medical College of Georgia (MCG).
The researcher says that the treatment may one day follow tumour surgery and chemotherapy in patients when recurrence is likely. According to him, it may also work for persistent viral infections like HIV and human papillomavirus, parasitic diseases like malaria, and bacterial infections like tuberculosis.
Dr. He has revealed that it is antigens that get the attention of the immune system. He says that dendritic cells present antigens to T cells so that the host immune system will be alerted.
The research team is using animal models of melanoma in their study. They are taking key antigens and modifying them just enough to get the attention of T cells, but still result in an immune response that targets the cancer.
Dr. He is trying to identify which dendritic cells actually present the antigens to T cells, so that he may use a delivery mechanism that also gets their attention.
At present, he is using the lentivector, a recombinant viral vector that provides an effective and safe way of stimulating T-cell immunity. This vector is good at getting in and surviving in the body.
Dr. He believes that the vector may help generate a potent, memorable immune response that eradicates cancer, and programme an immune army against its recurrence.†
"Hopefully our collaboration will enable a comprehensive treatment package that includes a T cell vaccine and an IDO (indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase) inhibitor to optimise the therapeutic effect in cancer patients," Dr. He says.