Yale University scientists have developed a new mechanism for attacking cancerous tumours that intensifies the body's immune response while simultaneously weakening the tumour's ability to resist it.
|This illustration depicts a nanolipogel administering its immunotherapy cargo. The light-blue spheres within the blood vessels and the cutaway sphere in the foreground are the nanolipogels. (Illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller, NSF)|
''We believe this is a paradigm-changing immunotherapeutic method for cancer therapy,'' said Tarek M Fahmy, a bioengineer at Yale and the project's principal investigator. ''In essence, it's a one-two punch strategy that seems to work well for melanoma and may work even better with other cancers.''
The researchers reported results on 15 July on the online version of the journal Nature Materials. Dr. Richard A. Flavell of Yale School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute collaborated on the project. Flavell is also a member of Yale Cancer Centre.
Tumours - in this case metastatic melanomas, or spreading skin cancers - are adept at overcoming their host's natural defenses, in part by emitting agents that disrupt production and operation of the immune system.
The Yale team developed a new biodegradable nanoparticle that delivers a combination of two very different therapeutic agents to tumour sites, gradually releasing the agents into the tumour vasculature.
One agent, a large soluble protein called a cytokine, stimulates the body's innate immune response. The other, a small-molecule inhibitor, interferes with the tumour's ability to suppress the immune response. Other drug combinations are possible.