Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Cocktail boosts immune cells in fighting cancer

Fighting cancer using the body's own defense system is a promising treatment approach. Immune therapies have even become clinical routine in treating a few cancers such as malignant melanoma and prostate cancer.

Natural killer cells (or NK cells) are considered to be particularly suitable weapons against cancer. They are part of the innate immune system and respond to a wide range of cancer cells of diverse origin. Moreover, NK cells also kill tumor cells that have lost a specific target and go unnoticed by other immune cells.

"The big problem in using NK cells for therapy is their rapid loss of activity, hence their aggressiveness," says Dr. Adelheid Cerwenka. Together with her team at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Cerwenka is trying to ¬develop cancer therapies based on NK cells. "Although there are good treatment results for certain types of blood cancer, ¬NK cells have been clinically effective in fighting solid tumors only in a few cases," the immunologist explains.

Cerwenka's team has now been the first to enhance the NK cells' deadly potential in mice using a cocktail of three different immune mediators (interleukins 12, 15, and 18). NK cells that were activated in the culture dish and then injected into cancerous mice significantly slowed down tumor growth. The animals survived significantly longer and in one quarter of animals the tumors even regressed completely. By contrast, NK cells without prior treatment were ineffective.

The NK cells pretreated with the cocktail initially multiplied strongly in the mice. The researchers found it particularly remarkable that the NK cells appear to be re-stimulated by other immune cells in the bodies of the affected mice and were thus kept in an active state. Even after three months, the DKFZ immunologists still found active, functional NK cells in mice, even after the tumors had already been rejected. "We previously thought immunological memory exists only in cells of the adaptive immune system," says Cerwenka.

However, NK cells were only able to let tumors shrink if the mice had undergone prior radiation treatment. The scientists found a lot more NK cells at their site of action in tumor tissue in irradiated mice than in control animals. Cerwenka and colleagues do not yet know the precise molecular reason for this observation. "The good thing is that we might be able to¬ achieve this effect in a potential clinical application by combining the cocktail-treated NK cells with radiation therapy."

Cocktail-treated human NK cells also display all molecular signs of sustained activation in cell culture. Adelheid Cerwenka and her team have already started testing the effectiveness of killer cells in fighting human cancer cells. "We hope to advance the development of NK cell therapies against cancer with our novel approach," says Cerwenka.

Jing Ni, Matthias Miller, Ana Stojanovic, Natalio Garbi and Adelheid Cerwenka: Sustained effector function of IL-12/15/18 preactivated NK cells against established tumors. Journal of Experimental Medicine 2012, DOI: 10.1084/jem.20120944

*The body's defense system is made up of the innate and the adaptive immune systems. The innate system is responsible for immediate defense of the body. Cells of the innate system do not have specific receptors but respond to a broad spectrum of pathogens (using phagocytes, granulocytes) or transformed body cells (using NK cells). By contrast, T and B lymphocytes, which are part of the adaptive immune system, are equipped with highly specific receptor molecules directed against protein components of specific pathogens. If these long-lived cells, which form a sort of memory of the immune system, encounter this specific invader again, they first have to multiply before they can mount an effective defense. Therefore, several days pass before the adaptive immune defense is ready to fight the attack.

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 2,500 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. The center is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers. Ninety percent of its funding comes from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Finding cannabinoids in hair does not prove cannabis consumption
07.10.2015 | Universitätsklinikum Freiburg

nachricht Older patients recover more slowly from concussion
06.10.2015 | Radiological Society of North America

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

Self-driving cars will be on our streets in the foreseeable future. In Graz, research is currently dedicated to an innovative driver assistance system that takes over control if there is a danger of collision. It was nature that inspired Dr Manfred Hartbauer from the Institute of Zoology at the University of Graz: in dangerous traffic situations, migratory locusts react around ten times faster than humans. Working together with an interdisciplinary team, Hartbauer is investigating an affordable collision detector that is equipped with artificial locust eyes and can recognise potential crashes in time, during both day and night.

Inspired by insects

Im Focus: Physicists shrink particle accelerator

Prototype demonstrates feasibility of building terahertz accelerators

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has built the first prototype of a miniature particle accelerator that uses terahertz radiation instead of radio...

Im Focus: Simple detection of magnetic skyrmions

New physical effect: researchers discover a change of electrical resistance in magnetic whirls

At present, tiny magnetic whirls – so called skyrmions – are discussed as promising candidates for bits in future robust and compact data storage devices. At...

Im Focus: High-speed march through a layer of graphene

In cooperation with the Center for Nano-Optics of Georgia State University in Atlanta (USA), scientists of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität have made simulations of the processes that happen when a layer of carbon atoms is irradiated with strong laser light.

Electrons hit by strong laser pulses change their location on ultrashort timescales, i.e. within a couple of attoseconds (1 as = 10 to the minus 18 sec). In...

Im Focus: Battery Production: Laser Light instead of Oven-Drying and Vacuum Technology

At the exhibition BATTERY + STORAGE as part of WORLD OF ENERGY SOLUTIONS 2015 in Stuttgart, the Fraunhofer Institutes for Laser Technology ILT and for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS will be showing how laser technology can be used to manufacture batteries both cost- and energy-efficiently.

In the truest sense, it’s all about watts at the Dresden-based Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS and the Aachen-based Fraunhofer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

EHFG 2015: Securing healthcare and sustainably strengthening healthcare systems

01.10.2015 | Event News

Conference in Brussels: Tracking and Tracing the Smallest Marine Life Forms

30.09.2015 | Event News

World Alzheimer`s Day – Professor Willnow: Clearer Insights into the Development of the Disease

17.09.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Locusts at the wheel: University of Graz investigates collision detector inspired by insect eyes

07.10.2015 | Life Sciences

Research on clean diesel engine technology: Reduce nitrogen oxide emissions and consumption

07.10.2015 | Machine Engineering

Graphene teams up with two-dimensional crystals for faster data communications

06.10.2015 | Information Technology

More VideoLinks >>>