By Emily Henderson
A team of researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center has developed a nanotechnology platform that can change the way the immune system sees solid tumor cells, making them more receptive to immunotherapy. The preclinical findings suggest this adaptable immune conversion approach has the potential for broad application across many cancer types.
The study, published today in Nature Nanotechnology, details the use of this platform to artificially attach an activation molecule to the surface of tumor cells, triggering an immune response in both in vivo and in vitro models. Wen Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, and Betty Kim, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Neurosurgery, co-led the study.
With this new platform, we now have a strategy to convert a solid tumor, at least immunologically, to resemble a hematological tumor, which often has a much higher response rate to immunotherapy treatments. If we are able to translate and validate this approach in the clinic, it may enable us to get closer to the maximum level of activity from immunotherapy drugs with cancers that have not traditionally responded well.”
Wen Jiang, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology
Immunotherapy has high response rates in blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, but success has been variable across solid tumors. Scientists have been working to further understand the mechanisms prohibiting a better response. One explanation is that varied expression of immune regulatory molecules on blood cancer versus solid tumor cells impact how they interact with immune cells.
The signaling lymphocytic activation molecule family member 7 (SLAMF7) receptor is critical in activating the body’s immune cells against cancer cells, acting as an “eat me” signal. However, it is found almost exclusively on the surface of blood cancer cells and not in solid tumor cells, making it an attractive target for the researchers’ immune conversion approach.
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