Researchers at Mount Sinai in the US have developed a new immunotherapy that can be injected directly into a tumour cell and teach a patient’s own immune system to kill cancer throughout the body.
Called in situ vaccination, the new approach involves administration of two immune stimulants.
One of the stimulants recruits a type of immune cells called dendritic cells, which will then be activated by the second stimulant to direct T cells to attack cancer cells while sparing non-cancer cells.
The researchers noted that the immune cells learn to identify tumour cell characteristics in order to find and destroy the cancer throughout the body. This approach is said to turn the tumours into cancer vaccine factories.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai The Tisch Cancer Institute lymphoma immunotherapy program director Joshua Brody said: “The in situ vaccine approach has broad implications for multiple types of cancer. This method could also increase the success of other immunotherapies such as checkpoint blockade.”
When tested in mice, the new vaccine therapy was able to significantly boost the checkpoint blockade immunotherapy.
The researchers then went on to evaluate the treatment in a clinical trial involving 11 patients with advanced-stage lymphoma.
Results, which have been published in Nature Medicine journal, demonstrated full remission ranging from months to years in some patients.
Based on these promising data, the team initiated trials in breast, and head and neck cancer patients to assess the vaccine in combination with checkpoint blockade drugs.
The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Cancer Research Institute and Merck funded this research, while Celldex and Oncovir supplied reagents for the clinical trial and the lab testing.