Health Care

Double-barrel cancer treatment wipes out tumors and goes hunting for more

Double-barrel cancer treatment wipes out tumors and goes hunting for more

A new study in mice suggests it's possible: A shot containing two compounds that stimulate the immune system was injected directly into tumors and killed those cancer cells.

Researchers injected small amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into the the mice's tumors, which were described as "solid".

"When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body", Professor of oncology Ronald Levy told Stanford.

'This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn't require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient's immune cells'.

Moreover, the researchers have reason to believe in a speedier trajectory toward clinical trials for this method, since one of the agents involved has already been approved for use in human therapy, while the other is already under clinical trial for treatment. Levy and his colleagues have begun looking for about 15 people with lymphoma to test the vaccine in a clinical trial.

But cancer cells can accumulate mutations to avoid destruction by the immune system, and suppress the T cells, which attack abnormal cells. Specifically, T-cells often infiltrate and attack cancer cells.

The new method taps into the potential of specific immune cells, that can be reactivated to fight off cancer from the inside. One makes immune system cells work better and prompts them to call in reinforcements, while the other triggers the immune cells to multiply and migrate. This means that they only activate T cells inside the tumour, ones that have already recognised cancer cells as a threat. Since the two agents are injected directly into the tumour, only T cells that have infiltrated it are activated.

The researchers said that in future doctors could inject a tumour before it was removed, so that the body could then get to work fighting unidentified cancer elsewhere in the body. Some of the T cells even leave the tumor to find and destroy similar growths in the body.

An injectable "vaccine" delivered directly to tumours in mice has been found to eliminate all traces of those tumours, cancer researchers have found - and it works on many different kinds of cancers, including untreated metastases in the same animal.

What's more, they said this approach worked for lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

The Stanford team tested this in situ vaccination approach on laboratory mice with tumours transplanted in two sites on their bodies.

The researchers believe that the cancer vaccine that they discovered is cost effective, as only one injection is needed to activate the immune system's response against all tumors.

Mice genetically engineered to develop breast cancers in all 10 of their mammary pads also responded to the treatment.

The work is an example of Stanford Medicine's focus on precision health, the goal of which is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.