Most cancer drugs try to treat the disease by killing those fast-growing cells, but another approach called immunotherapy tries to stimulate a person’s own immune system to attack the cancer itself.
Maryelise Cieslewicz, University of Washington
A stained cross-section of a mouse tumor. In this image, red areas are macrophages, and green indicates the presence of the peptide that can bind with macrophages in cancer cells.
Now, scientists at the University of Washington have developed a strategy to slow tumor growth and prolong survival in mice with cancer by targeting and destroying a type of cell that dampens the body’s immune response to cancer. The researchers published their findings the week of Sept. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We’re really enthusiastic about these results because they suggest an alternative drug target that could be synergistic with current treatments,” said co-author Suzie Pun, a UW associate professor of bioengineering.
Our immune system normally patrols for and eliminates abnormal cells. Macrophages are a type of helpful immune cell that can be converted to the “dark side” by signals they receive from a tumor. When inside a tumor, macrophages can switch from helping the immune system to suppressing the body’s immune response to cancer. Several studies show a correlation between the number of macrophages in tumor biopsies and poor prognosis for patients, Pun said.
The UW team developed a method to target and eliminate the cancer-supporting macrophages in mouse tumors. Researchers predict this strategy could be used along with current treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer patients.
“We think this would amplify cancer treatments and hopefully make them better,” Pun said.
Scientists have a strong understanding of the behavior of macrophages in tumors, but most current methods to remove them do away with all macrophages in the body indiscriminately instead of targeting only the harmful ones that live in tumors.
In this study, UW bioengineering doctoral student Maryelise Cieslewicz designed a method to find a specific amino-acid sequence – or a peptide – that binds only the harmful macrophages in tumors and ignores helpful ones in the bodies of mice. When this sequence was injected into mice with cancer, the research team found that the peptide collected in the macrophage cells within tumors, leaving alone other healthy organs.
Once they discovered they could deliver the peptide sequence to specific cells, the researchers attached another peptide to successfully kill the harmful macrophages without affecting other cells. The mice had slower tumor growth and better survival when treated with this material.
The research team plans to test this method with existing cancer drugs to hopefully boost the success of other treatments.
The peptide sequence that successfully bound to harmful macrophages in mice doesn’t bind to their counterparts in humans, Pun said, but the researchers expect soon to find a similar peptide that targets human cells. They plan to use this method to investigate treatments for other types of cancer, including breast and pancreatic cancers.
The Pun research team collaborated with the UW labs of Elaine Raines in pathology and André Lieber in medical genetics on this study.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and a National Science Foundation fellowship.
For more information, contact Pun at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-685-3488.
Michelle Ma | EurekAlert!
The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences
Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine
07.12.2016 | Life Sciences
07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine