- Cancer cells undergo numerous mutations and synthesize mutant
- After radiotherapy these mutant proteins are discharged from
- The mutant proteins are used with nanoparticles to boost host
immune response against cancer
research team from the University of North Carolina has found a new way to
harness the body's natural ability to destroy cancer cells. After radiation
therapy, the cancer cells that are killed release mutant proteins. These proteins
are detected by the immune system of the body and function as protein markers
that guide the immune system to kill more cancer cells in other parts of the
body. The study was published in the
journal Nature Nanotechnology
recently and it details the potential ability of these proteins to improve the
immune defense against cancer cells.
‘The mutant proteins from cancer cells that are combined with the nanoparticles guide the immune cells against the cancer cells.’
research team used 'sticky' nanoparticles, also called antigen-capturing
nanoparticles, to improve the body's ability to detect cancer proteins. The
proteins that are dispelled by the dying cancer cells could be used to work
along with these nanoparticles to boost the immune response against
author of the study, Dr. Andrew Z. Wang, said that the scientists had
hypothesized that if they used nanoparticles to grab the cancer proteins then
they would be able to improve the immune defense. Dr. Wang is a member of UNC
Lineberger and an associate professor in Radiation Oncology in the UNC School
of Medicine. Nanoparticles were found to be attractive to the immune system as
their size resembles that of viruses, due to which the immune system responds
method of treatment is popularly used to treat many different types of cancer.
Scientists have always observed an "abscopal effect", wherein, there is
shrinkage of the tumor outside of the primary site treated with radiation. This
patient study was published in the New
England Journal of Medicine
(2012) and detailed the abscopal effect in a
patient with melanoma.
effect was due to the immune cells that were called to the tumor site post
radiation. The mutated proteins released by the dying cancer cells were used by
the immune cells present to train other immune cells to fight against cancer
. This effect of the
immune cells works alongside the "checkpoint inhibition" of immunotherapy drugs
that are used to eliminate the 'brakes' of the immune cells in their fight
mutant proteins, that are discharged from the dying cancer cells, are utilized
by the immune system as markers, according to the co-author of the study, Dr.
Jonathan Serody, who is an Associate Director for translational research.
Serody further stated that a lot of mutations are present in cancer cells which
get synthesized to mutated proteins; these proteins when exposed to the immune
system are treated as foreign. Though the body does not respond to the cancer
cells as it recognizes them as its own, the mutant proteins that are discharged
from these cancer cells are recognized as foreign.
Capturing the Mutant Proteins
research team from UNC Lineberger showed in preclinical studies that the
nanoparticles could be used successfully to capture the mutant proteins. Immune
cells then take up the nanoparticles while the mutant proteins present on their
surface can be used to train the immune cells. This defense system will help in
eliminating cancer from the rest of the body.
study findings were
- 20% of mice that were treated with the nanoparticles had a
complete response when compared to mice that did not receive the
Wang said that the nanoparticles were taken up by immune cells and transported
to the lymph nodes. These nanoparticles were found to increase the immune
response by increasing the number of immune cells that target the cancer cells.
There is a need for a strategy that can be used to improve the responses to
- The study shows that there is a potential to improve the immune
response of the host, by removing the checkpoint inhibitors, translating
into longer survival.
is a method of
treating cancer that is aimed at boosting the immune defenses against cancer.
- Stimulating the immune system to improve it
- Introducing immune system components that train immune cells to
specifically target cancer cells
nanoparticles that consist of the mutant proteins could be a potent activator
of the immune system against the cancer cells. Dr. Wang and his research team
are focusing on developing a commercial agent that can be used for treating
- What is cancer immunotherapy? - (https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/immunotherapy/what-is-immunotherapy.html)
- Immunotherapy - (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/immunotherapy)