Cancer is a widely studied topic in bioscience research but yet remains to be mostly unknown and difficult to treat. However, the recent developments in cancer research over the past decade have helped the scientific community to come up with effective treatment methods. But still, one of the most common problems faced in treating cancer cells is difficulty in locating them for efficient targeting. Recently, scientists from Yale University have developed a new system that can help our immune system find the hidden cancer cells and kill them. The research has been published in Journal Nature Immunology.
Why this study holds importance?
It is a known fact that there exists a number of immunotherapies for treating cancers. But these therapies have certain shortcomings as they either don’t work on all patients or are inefficient in different cancer types. The major reason behind this is the failure of these therapies in identifying the cancer cells which reduces their effectiveness. This highlights an urgent need for a more targeted approach that can help curb the menace of cancer.
The development of a new system by scientists in the present study is considered to overcome the drawbacks of the earlier immune therapies. Researchers report that upon testing the new system in mice it has shown positive response against the melanoma, triple-negative breast, and pancreatic tumors, even for those tumors which are situated at a distant location from the primary tumor.
“This is an entirely new form of immunotherapy,” said Sidi Chen, senior author.
How the new system – MAEGI works?
The researchers developed a new system to target the cancer cells which combines the viral gene therapy and CRISPR based gene-editing technology. Unlike the traditional method of searching and making edits at the DNA level by incorporation of new genes, the present system uses a much more targeted approach.
The new system named as MAEGI stands for Multiplexed Activation of Endogenous Gene as Immunotherapy. This system works by searching numerous cancer-causing genes, marking their location by mimicking GPS and subsequently intensifying the signal of these locations for precise targeting.
For instance, you can consider that the new system dresses up the tumor cells in a unique manner that can be easily identified by the immune system of our body and eventually eliminate them. For this, the cold tumors cells lacking any immune cells are converted into hot tumors cells which are packed with tons of immune cells.
“And once those cells are identified, the immune system immediately recognizes them if they show up in the future,” Chen said. The new system, in theory, should be effective against many cancer types, including those currently resistant to immunotherapy, he said.
The researchers will be further optimizing this system to make the manufacturing process easier. Once optimization is done it will be subjected to clinical trials in potential cancer patients.
No wonder that cancer is a rising menace in the present world. Though many therapies are available we still need highly effective methods to treat cancer. The development of the immunotherapy-based system has given rise to a ray of hope for a more effective and proficient treatment that not only treats primary tumor cells but also the distant ones. Let’s look forward to this new development and hope for the best outcomes in subsequent clinical trials.