Vanderbilt University biotechnology has made a breakthrough in penetrating cells in the tumor and activating a switch that tells them to start fighting, as published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Scientists recently won the Nobel Prize for working to release the immune system's ability to eliminate tumor cells making a big step in the fight against immunotherapy against cancer. This approach keeps cancer cells from killing the immune system T cells before they can fight tumors, and only one way to use the body's defenses. The Vanderbilt team has built on this breakthrough to perform with others by designing nanoscale particles that can penetrate tumor immune cells that permeate tumors and activate them to start fighting.
Tumors have evolved many ways to avoid detection of the immune system, our goal is to rearm the immune system with the tools needed to destroy cancer cells, by developing nanoparticles to find tumors and provide specific molecules produced naturally by the body to fight cancer, said John T. Wilson.
The CGAMP molecule is used as the main method of nanoparticles to activate the stimulator of the interferon gene pathway which is a natural mechanism used by the body to mount immune responses to viruses, bacteria, or cleanse malignant cells. Nanoparticles provide cGAMP by jumping off the immune response in the tumor which results in the generation of killer T cells that can destroy tumors from the inside out, and increase response to the checkpoint blockade.
The team focused on melanoma and their findings showed that this method could have an impact on the treatment of various other forms of cancer such as head, neck, breast, lung, kidney, colorectal, and neuroblastoma.
The process begins by trying to develop nanoparticles using smart polymers that respond to PH changes that are engineered to increase the potential of cGAMP; after 20+ iterations one was found to be able to provide cGAMP to activate STING efficiently in mouse immune cells, then in mouse tumors, and finally in human tissue samples. According to Daniel Shae PhD, this work is very encouraging because it has shown this technology might work in patients.