Treatment that eliminated lymphoma in 97% mice in an animal trial is set to move to human trials soon.
Previously, this treatment cured lymphoma in 87 out of 90 mice. Although it holds a lot of promise, there is a word of caution from the research team before we start celebrating its arrival. Keep reading to know more!
A brief history of the new treatment approach
Traditionally, immunotherapy works by stimulating the human immune system throughout the body. Immunotherapy drugs are used to target naturally-occurring checkpoints that would otherwise limit the anti-cancer activity of human immune cells. In some treatments, immune cells are first removed from a patient’s body and then genetically engineered to attack tumor cells (e.g. CAR T-cell therapy).
These immunotherapy ‘rangers’ are:
- A short stretch of DNA (called CpG oligonucleotide) – This syncs with immune cells located near the tumor site, and amplifies the expression of an activating receptor on the surface of the T-cells.
- An antibody that binds with other receptors, activating the T-cells to identify and attack cancer cells.
This approach is effective because the human immune system is already trained to ‘pre-screen’ the kind of T-cells that operate inside tumors. These ranger agents go the extra mile by activating T-cells that have already infiltrated the tumour, and stimulating them to fight cancer with increased efficiency.
(Read more here)
Human trials for this treatment approach
The team, satisfied with the results that the first trial runs have demonstrated, are now actively recruiting low-grade lymphoma patients (volunteers).
“Getting the immune system to fight cancer is one of the most recent developments in cancer. People need to know that this is in its early days and we are still looking for safety and looking to make this as good as it can be.” – Dr Ronald Levy, Stanford Medical
- This will be a phase-one trial, comprising 35 low-grade lymphoma patients.
- The trial does not involve any patient-specific engineering.
- The trial uses two off-the-shelf products, whose components have been approved separately.
- Each volunteer in the clinical study will receive two rounds of the injections, combined with a low dose of radiation.
- No chemotherapy will be administered as part of the trial.
The way forward
Dr. Ron Levy’s treatment approach is not a “true vaccine”[1:1]. It is not a vaccine because it does not create lasting immunity. Instead, it features an injection similar to vaccines, carrying immune stimulators. These stimulators go on a ‘search & destroy’ mission through out the body, to find and eliminate traces of cancer/tumor cells.
As of now, the treatment only works against solid tumors, and the trials are only being conducted for lymphoma patients. But in Dr. Levy’s own words, the team will first validate its effectiveness on humans, and then aim to help patients affected by other cancer types. If found effective, this will be one of the most affordable, painless and outcome-oriented cancer treatments ever.
- SFGate/Ron-Levy – https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Chemotherapy-free-cancer-vaccine-moves-from-12777406.php ↩︎ ↩︎
- NBC/Bay-Area/Ron-Levy – https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Stanford-Researchers-Testing-Vaccine-to-Fight-Cancer-478252433.html ↩︎
- Onco.com-Newsroom/Ron-Levy-Immunotherapy – https://onco.com/blog/cancer-medicine-immunotherapy-ron-levy/ ↩︎
- SeekingAlpha – https://seekingalpha.com/article/4160336-cancer-vaccine-97-percent-complete-response-rate-mice-starts-human-trials ↩︎