MIT study finds new way to attack tumors effectively

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In a new study, researchers found a way to boost the effectiveness of one type of cancer immunotherapy.

They showed that if they treated cancer with existing drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, along with new nanoparticles that further stimulate the immune system, the therapy became more powerful than checkpoint inhibitors given alone.

This approach could allow cancer immunotherapy to benefit more cancer patients.

The research was conducted by MIT engineers.

One promising strategy to treat cancer is stimulating the body’s own immune system to attack tumors.

However, tumors are very good at suppressing the immune system, so these types of treatments don’t work for all patients.

These therapies work really well in a small portion of patients, and in other patients, they don’t work at all. It’s not entirely understood at this point why that discrepancy exists.

In the study, the team devised a way to package and deliver small pieces of DNA that crank up the immune response to tumors, creating a synergistic effect that makes the checkpoint inhibitors more effective.

In studies in mice, they showed that the dual treatment halted tumor growth, and in some cases, also stopped the growth of tumors elsewhere in the body.

The researchers also wondered whether they could stimulate the immune system to target tumors that had already spread through the body.

To explore that possibility, they implanted mice with two tumors, one on each side of the body.

They gave the mice the checkpoint inhibitor treatment throughout the entire body but injected the nanoparticles into only one tumor.

They found that once T cells had been activated by the treatment combination, they could also attack the second tumor.

The researchers now plan to perform safety testing of the particles, in hopes of further developing them to treat patients whose tumors don’t respond to checkpoint inhibitor drugs on their own.

To that end, they are working with Errki Ruoslahti of the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, who originally discovered the tumor-penetrating peptides.

A company that Ruoslahti founded has already taken other versions of the tumor-penetrating peptides into human clinical trials to treat pancreatic cancer.

The lead author of the study is Colin Buss Ph.D.

The study is published in PNAS.

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