The first clinical trials of a new type of cancer treatment that releases the “brakes” on immune cells indicate that this approach enhances attacks on tumors while sparing the body’s own tissue.
The results of the phase I clinical trials of cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 blockade therapy were published online on April 1, 2003, in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers involved in the study included James Allison, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of California, Berkeley, Glenn Dranoff, Steven Hodi and colleagues from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Over the last decade, basic research in Allison’s laboratory and others has shown that the immune-regulating molecule, cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4), inhibits activated immune system T cells, and prevents them from attacking the body’s own tissues. In studies in mice, Allison and his colleagues identified an antibody that blocks CTLA-4 and showed that it enhances the cancer-fighting activity of certain anti-cancer vaccines. Their research showed that blocking CTLA-4 maintains the response of T cells triggered by the vaccines to attack the cancer.
Jim Keeley | Howard Hughes Medical Institute
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