A cancer treatment may soon be on the horizon, thanks to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. A newly-developed treatment, which was tested on mice, has the potential to obliterate tumors within 10 days.
Science Mag reports that by injecting an immune-stimulating mixture directly into tumors in mice, the animals’ immune system was boosted, thereby being able to destroy not only the injected tumors but other tumors in their body.
“This is a very important study,” said immunologist Keith Knutson of the Mayo Clinic, who was not part of the research. “It provides a good pretext for going into humans.”
So far, researchers have tried injecting various concoctions containing molecules and viruses into the tumors. The goal is always the same: boost the immune system. However, the results have been varied. And, nearly every candidate they’ve tested in humans hasn’t worked. That’s why medical oncologist Ron Levy of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, worked with colleagues to test the cancer-fighting capabilities of approximately 20 molecules — together. These include several types of antibodies that activate immune cells.
The researchers induced tumors in mice by inserting cancer cells just below the skin at two different locations on the abdomen. After tumors started to grow on both sides, the scientists injected the molecules — either alone or in combination — into one tumor in each mouse. The tumors were then regularly checked and their responses documented.
In the study, published in Science Translational Medicine, the team explained that a pair of molecules (a type of DNA fragment called CpG and an antibody against the immune cell protein (OX40) produced the best results. “On their own, they do almost nothing, but the combination is synergistic,” said Levy. When the two molecules were injected into mouse tumors, they disappeared in less than 10 days. Within 20 days, the non-injected tumors had also vanished.
The molecules have different functions. CpG stimulates dendritic cells which help instigate counter-attacks against cancerous cells. OX40 serves as a throttle of sorts for T-cells, another type of immune cell that battles tumors. The anti-OX40 antibodies charge up the T-cells. To test the mixture further, Levy and his team tested the approach in a mouse prone to breast tumors. Injecting the mixture into one tumor halted the growth of the second, as well as prevented any new breast tumors from growing.
Levy is hopeful the particular combination “will be very effective in patients.” He predicts it could work against a number of cancers. He also thinks it has the potential to eliminate metastases, the secondary tumors that result when cancer spreads.
The researchers are now tasked with determining whether or not the approach works in humans, as most rodent cancer therapies do not translate to humans. Levy and his colleagues have launched a clinical trial to evaluate the safety of their approach and to test its effectiveness in patients with lymphoma.
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h/t Science Mag