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October 22, 2021 Friday 11:17:51 AM IST

New cancer treatment developed by MIT

Science Innovations

MIT researchers have discovered a new way to jump-start the immune system to attack tumors, which could allow immunotherapy to be used against more types of cancer. This new approach involves removing tumor cells from the body, treating them with chemotherapy drugs, and then placing them back in the tumor. When delivered along with drugs that activate T cells, these injured cancer cells appear to act as a distress signal that spurs the T cells into action. In mouse studies, the researchers found that this treatment could completely eliminate tumors in nearly half of the mice. Yaffe and Darrell Irvine are the chief authors of this paper. 

In studies of mice with melanoma and breast tumors, the researchers found that this treatment could eliminate tumors completely in 40 percent of the mice. Furthermore, when the researchers injected cancer cells into these same mice several months later, their T cells recognized them and destroyed them before they could form new tumors. The researchers also tried injecting DNA-damaging drugs directly into the tumors instead of treating cells outside the body, but they found this was not effective. The researcher hopes to test this approach in patients whose tumors have not responded to immunotherapy, but more study is needed to determine which drugs, and at which doses, would be most beneficial for different types of tumors. The researchers are also further investigating the details of exactly how the injured tumor cells stimulate such a strong T cell response.