In the world of research for new cancer treatments, scientists are constantly searching for ground-breaking developments. Now Stanford University scientists are hopeful, their research will soon lead to a cure for some cancers. Ronald Levy, senior author of a study, published in Science Translational Medicine in January 2018, which demonstrates a new cancer treatment’s ability to wipe out all of the tumors in a group of mice.
Their approach used a one-time application of two immune-stimulating agents:
(i) a short stretch of DNA called a CpG oligonucleotide, known to amplify the expression of an activating receptor called OX40 on the surface of the T cells ;
(ii) an antibody that binds to OX40 and activates the T cells to start reacting against the cancer cells.
This new treatment was injected into the tumors and cured 87 of the 90 mice. Even the three who had recurrence were finally cured by a second application of this treatment.
These experiments, demonstrate a revolution in immunotherapy for cancer for many reasons.
Firstly, injecting this vaccine directly into one tumor resulted in some of the activated T-cells migrating out of the tumor and finding tumors elsewhere in the body.
Secondly, they are selectively injecting the tumors. This very precise process may help to avoid adverse side effects often seen with body-wide immuno stimulation.
Turning on the immune system may result in the immune system attacking your own body (e.g. PD-1 treatments, PD-L1 treatments). With this treatment, such risks will be massively reduced.
Thirdly, this new treatment could reduce the cost of cancer treatment. The recent inflationary trend in new cancer drugs has seen prices that can now top $250,000 a year, this treatment has the advantage of not needing to be customised for each individual patient and does not need to have a long processing time. So, if trials prove successful in humans, it has the possibility of dramatically reducing costs.
Finally, broader medical applications in oncology are predicted. Ronald Levy said “I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system”.
The next step is a small clinical trial with 15 people who have a low grade lymphoma. This gives hope not just for patients but also for society.
 Eradication of spontaneous malignancy by local immunotherapy. Sagiv-Barfi I, Czerwinski DK, Levy S, Alam IS, Mayer AT, Gambhir SS, Levy R. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Jan 31;10(426).
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