Posted on Jan 05, 2017, 6 a.m.
Scientists used nanodiscs to train the immune systems of mice to effectively target colon and melanoma cancer tumors.
University of Michigan researchers had success in using nanodiscs as a new way to deliver customized vaccines into lab mice to test the treatment against melanoma and colon cancer tumors. As professor James Moon explained, they are boosting the immune system with the nanodiscs to make immune cells more effective in attacking cancer cells. This is considered a therapeutic vaccine, as opposed to more limited preventative vaccines which do not kill the tumors.
To fight the cancer cells, the vaccine is loaded with the nanodiscs carrying mutated neoantigens which are found in cancer tumors. The effect in the bloodstream is the activation of immune fighter cells called T-cells. The fighter cells can then identify neoantigens in the blood and then home in on cancer cells in the targeted tumor, eliminating the cancer cells and preventing tumor regrowth. According to Moon, their goal was to make the nanodiscs activate the immune system to fight and kill established cancer cells.
Lab Mice Tumors Killed in 10 Days of Treatment
Lab mice with colon and melanoma cancers were tested with this new technology. After being vaccinated with the nanodiscs, 27% of immune system fighter cells were activated in the blood stream to target the cancer tumors. The treatment was combined with inhibitors that further boosted the fighter cells responsiveness. This resulted in the killing of tumors in only 10 days of treatment for most of the mice.
After 70 days, the researchers injected the same cancer cells into the treated mice. Amazingly, the cancer cells were rejected by the immune systems of the mice. Lead author Rui Kuai suggests that the mice developed super immune systems that remembered the cancer cells, and may result in a long-term immunity against that particular cancer.
The Holy Grail in Cancer Medication
The nanodiscs are made of synthetic lipoproteins and are so small that they are 10000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. The technology of this vaccine is so efficient that the nano-components are delivered to the target cells in the right tissue. This delivery system makes the immune systems t-cells respond rapidly.
In the fight against cancer, personalized immunotherapy is a rapidly expanding field of medicine. The research team has produced what may be the holy grail in cancer treatments, the ability to kill tumors while preventing future recurrence. At least this works well in mice, but the next steps are to experiment on larger animals, and eventually onto humans trials.
Rui Kuai, Lukasz J. Ochyl, Keith S. Bahjat, Anna Schwendeman, James J. Moon. Designer vaccine nanodiscs for personalized cancer immunotherapy. Nature Materials, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nmat4822