London: A next-generation cell-based immunotherapy may offer new hope in the fight against the most aggressive form of brain cancer, say scientists, including one of Indian origin, who have found a novel method to produce
more effective anticancer vaccines.
Despite improvements in surgical procedures, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, high-grade glioma is still notoriously hard to treat - less than 10 per cent of patients survive beyond five years.
Cell-based immunotherapy involves the injection of a therapeutic anticancer vaccine that stimulates the patient's immune system to attack the tumour. Thus far, the results of this type of immunotherapy have been mildly promising.
Abhishek D Garg and Patrizia Agostinis from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium have now found a novel way to produce more effective cell-based anticancer vaccines.
The researchers induced a specific type of cell death in brain cancer cells from mice. The dying cancer cells were then incubated together with dendritic cells, which play a vital role in the immune system.
The researchers discovered that this type of cancer cell killing releases 'danger signals' that fully activate the dendritic cells. "We re-injected the activated dendritic cells into the mice as a therapeutic vaccine," said Agostinis.
"That vaccine alerted the immune system to the presence of dangerous cancer cells in the body. As a result, the immune system could recognise them and start attacking the brain tumour," she said. Combined with chemotherapy, this novel cell-based immunotherapy drastically increased the survival rates of mice
afflicted with brain tumours.
Almost 50 per cent of the mice were completely cured. For the sake of comparison - none of the mice treated with chemotherapy alone became long-term survivors. "The major goal of any anticancer treatment is to kill
all cancer cells and prevent any remaining malignant cells from growing or spreading again," said Agostinis.
"This goal, however, is rarely achieved with current chemotherapies, and many patients relapse. That's why the co-stimulation of the immune system is so important for cancer treatments," she said.
"Scientists have to look for ways to kill cancer cells in a manner that stimulates the immune system. Our findings offer a feasible way to improve the production of vaccines against brain tumours," she said....