Immunotherapy for cancer is all about boosting a patient’s natural defense systems. Thanks to a breakthrough by researchers at Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC, scientists are now able to generate certain immune cells outside the body.
The Role of Dendritic Cells
Dendritic cells serve as an early warning system for the immune system. These cells give the signal to “arm” the system with disease-specific weapons. A major plus is that dendritic cells can attack all forms of cancer while causing few side effects.
Unfortunately, the down side is that dendritic cells are normally in short supply. Extracting them from patients to use in immunotherapy for cancer proves to be a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process.
Dendritic Cells and Immunotherapy
The research team at Mount Sinai discovered a way to grow human dendritic cells in vitro. According to Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, Director of Immunotherapy at the Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, the ability to generate these cells on a large scale opens the door for extensive studies of potential applications in highly refined cancer vaccines.
In another promising development, the study also provided insight into notch signaling. This biological pathway plays a major role in generating cDC1, which is the optimum dendritic cell for cancer vaccines. The team discovered that some current treatments disrupt notch signaling, which interferes with the immune system’s efficiency in fighting tumors.
Benefits of this study are twofold. In addition to applications for cancer treatments, the information may help prevent organ transplant rejection, which is another function of the immune system.
Longtime Leaders in Immunotherapy for Cancer