Scientists create army of tumor-fighting immune cells and watch as they attack cancer

July 12, 2010, University of California - Los Angeles

Researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center created a large, well armed battalion of tumor-seeking immune system cells and watched, in real time using Positron Emission Tomography (PET), as the special forces traveled throughout the body to locate and attack dangerous melanomas.

The gene therapy work, done with melanomas grown in mice, employed a crippled HIV-like virus to serve as a vehicle to arm the lymphocytes with T , which caused the lymphocytes to become specific killers of . A reporter gene, which glows "hot" during PET scanning, also was inserted into the cells so researchers could track the genetically engineered lymphocytes after they were injected into the blood stream, made their way to the lungs and lymph nodes and then specifically homed in on the tumors wherever they were located within the body.

"We're trying to genetically engineer the immune system to become a cancer killer and then image how the immune system operates at the same time," said Dr. Antoni Ribas, an associate professor of hematology/oncology, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the senior author of the study. "We knew this approach of arming the lymphocytes with T cell receptors showed significant anti-tumor activity based on studies in humans. Now, by tracking the immune system's reaction to cancer and imaging it in real time, we can project how the same process that succeeded in mice might behave in people."

The study is published July 12, 2010 in the early online edition of the journal .

"The novelty of our work is that we were able to pack together the cancer specific and the PET reporter genes in a single vector and use it in mice with an intact immune system that closely resembles what we would see in real patients," said Dr. Richard Koya, an assistant professor of at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine and first author of the study. "We were also gladly surprised to see the targeted tumors literally melt away and disappear, underscoring the power of the combined approach of immune and gene therapy to control cancer."

The immune system generally does not recognize cancer cells in the body as enemies. The insertion of the antigen-specific T cell receptors - engineered to seek out a tumor antigen on the surface of the melanoma cells - in effect uncloaks the malignant cells, revealing them as deadly invaders that must be sought out and killed.

By imaging the genetically engineered T cells as they seek out and attack the cancer, the scientists can closely examine the processes of the immune system as it fights malignancies , which could then result in better monitoring response to therapy in melanoma patients.

In this study, the cells were injected into the bloodstreams of the mice and they had found and begun to fight the melanoma within two to three days. The mice were imaged periodically for 10 days to ensure the lymphocytes were indeed killing the cancer. The process to find and kill the malignant cells could take longer in people, Ribas said.

If a patient's tumor did not respond well to the administration of the genetically engineered T cells, scientists could determine by PET scanning whether the cells had not successfully made it to the tumor site or, if they did arrive, whether or not they functioned as expected. Monitoring the immune response also could provide clues on ways to better engineer the lymphocytes to more effectively enter and attack the tumors.

In this study, about one million genetically engineered lymphocytes were created and injected into a mouse. In humans, the number of tumor-seeking cells needed to fight the cancer is about one billion, Ribas said.

Ribas and his team are working now on creating a vector, or vehicle, to insert the T cell receptors and reporter gene into the lymphocytes in a way that is safe to use in humans. If all goes well, human studies of the process could begin in about a year, Ribas said.

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5 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2010
Cancer is a wide group of neoplastic diseases completely different to autoimmune disease. You have no idea what you are talking about and the site you are advertising is a textbook example of quack medicine. Go away.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2010
Including cancer??? I think you might want to read a pathology textbook before you talk about your experiences so you don't immediately come across as a moron. The only reason your website likes to throw everything into one basket is so it can claim that it's snake oil is a cure to all of these things that "conventional medicine" can't treat. Even cancers are not alike, some are extremely treatable while others (see melanoma above) are not.

It's a scam designed to prey on the vulnerable and desperate who are suffering from diseases that unfortunately can't be treated. Research such as the story above is an example of what real medicine is doing. They are working on it. The rest is just con artists peddling false hope.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2010
Since there are no randomised controlled trials or any evidence for that matter supporting this so-called treatment the only assumption I am left with is that you are either lying or basing your passionate but misguided posts on personal anecdotes. There are a lot of fallacies that make people believe this such as correlation/causation and wishful thinking combined with regression towards the mean and the placebo effect. If you were/are actually sick I hope that you are not refusing conventional evidence based treatment in favour of such nonsense, there are plenty of people who have died doing this.

So far you have mentioned no empirical evidence and only a handful of biomedical facts, most of which have been wrong. Cancer is anaerobic, seriously? Gee that must be why it recruits its own blood supply. Blood carries oxygen away, right?
5 / 5 (3) Jul 14, 2010
By the way, in medicine all cancers are different, but in biomedical engineering they can be treated together since they are all anaerobic and iron dependent.
Did you know that?
If cancer was anaerobic you probably wouldn't see lung cancer as a common fatal cancer. You certainly wouldn't see skin cancer as one of the most common cancers.
5 / 5 (1) Jul 15, 2010
I had a read, it's nonsense. Taking all those antibiotics at once will not do a thing for cancer and would probably give a lot of people pseudomembranous colitis. It actually sounds like an experiment to breed new superbugs. 3-5 years!? Seriously??

The whole thing sounds like it was written by someone who knew nothing about medicine, for people who know nothing about medicine. I've heard of this kind of thing before. The founder had sarcoidosis.

'Doctors don't seem to help, not because they can't, they're just useless. I know, I'll whip up a cure with whatever's in my medicine cabinet. Wow, it seemed to go away after 6 months. With my sample size of one, I now proclaim I have the cure to all diseases! Please donate generously as I need the cash - you see I have strong evidence that a cocktail of multiple expensive drugs taken over several years is a miracle cure. As such the drug companies show no interest at all.'
5 / 5 (2) Jul 15, 2010
I use the word "aerobic" to mean low oxygen rather than low air pressure!
One of the common therapies after chemo has failed is Hyperbaric, ask your doctor what that is!

Awfully scientific of you to jsut randomly change established definitions.

This sounds more and more like creationist style snake oil science.

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