In very exciting medical news, researchers from Stanford University believe they have found a way of teaching the immune system to target and wipe out tumours, suggesting that the discovery could be the first step to really eradicating cancer.
A type of immune cell can be primed to attack and eliminate various kinds of malignant cancers in mice. The researchers studied mouse models of melanoma, pancreatic, breast and lung cancer and found that their technique could eliminate not only primary tumours, but also distant metastases throughout the body.
“The potency is impressive,” said Edgar Engleman, MD, PhD, a professor of pathology and of medicine at Stanford and the senior author of the study. “You actually see tumour eradication”.
A paper describing the findings were published online April 29 in Nature. The lead author is postdoctoral scholar Yaron Carmi, PhD. The process appears to rely on the same mechanism that causes animals’ bodies to reject organ transplants, the researchers said. In both cases, antibodies — molecules that detect foreign substances in the body — kick off the immune response. They bind to proteins from the foreign tissue and, through signaling cells, alert T cells, the immune system’s SWAT team. When T cells encounter the “unwelcome” tissue, they attack and destroy it.
“Yaron was able to show that this combination therapy was extraordinary powerful,” said Engleman. “Pretty much we could eliminate any cancer”.
To confirm that a similar mechanism was present in humans, blood plasma from 10 healthy donors was pooled to collect antibodies against four cancers from patients: two lung and two mesothelioma cancers. The antibodies with the stimulation factors were able to activate the two lung cancer patients’ dendritic cells in vitro. With the cells from the two mesothelioma cancer patients, the antibodies induced T cell proliferation in vitro under the same experimental conditions.
Unlike many potential treatments that apply to specific cancers, this method could target a wide range of solid tumours, the researchers said.
It’s a very exciting development in the fight against cancer and the in vitro testing does hold a lot of promise, but it will take real human trials before it can be proven effective in humans and then it will take some time before the side effects and possible types of cancer it can fight becomes apparent.
In the meantime, keep being as healthy as possible and stay fit in your mind and body because that’s all anyone can do!