New cancer therapy uses nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells

Electronics-research-001(Nanowerk News) Researchers at the University of  Georgia are developing a new treatment technique that uses nanoparticles to  reprogram immune cells so they are able to recognize and attack cancer. The  findings were published recently in the early online edition of ACS  Nano (“Ex Vivo Programming of Dendritic Cells by  Mitochondria-Targeted Nanoparticles to Produce Interferon-Gamma for Cancer  Immunotherapy”).
The human body operates under a constant state of martial law.  Chief among the enforcers charged with maintaining order is the immune system, a  complex network that seeks out and destroys the hordes of invading bacteria and  viruses that threaten the organic society as it goes about its work.
The immune system is good at its job, but it’s not perfect. Most  cancerous cells, for example, are able to avoid detection by the immune system  because they so closely resemble normal cells, leaving the cancerous cells free  to multiply and grow into life-threatening tumors while the body’s only  protectors remain unaware.
“What we are working on is specifically geared toward breast  cancer,” said Dhar, the study’s co-author and an assistant professor of  chemistry in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “Our paper reports  for the first time that we can stimulate the immune system against breast cancer  cells using mitochondria-targeted nanoparticles and light using a novel  pathway.”
In their experiments, Dhar and her colleagues exposed cancer  cells in a petri dish to specially designed nanoparticles 1,000 times finer than  the width of a human hair. The nanoparticles invade the cell and penetrate the  mitochondria?the organelles responsible for producing the energy a cell needs to  grow and replicate.
They then activated the nanoparticles inside the cancer cells by  exposing them to a tissue-penetrating long wavelength laser light. Once  activated, the nanoparticles disrupt the cancer cell’s normal processes,  eventually leading to its death.
The dead cancer cells were collected and exposed to dendritic  cells, one of the core components of the human immune system. What the  researchers saw was remarkable.
“We are able to potentially overcome some of the traditional  drawbacks to today’s dendritic cell immunotherapy,” said Sean Marrache, a  graduate student in Dhar’s lab. “By targeting nanoparticles to the mitochondria  of cancer cells and exposing dendritic cells to these activated cancer cells, we  found that the dendritic cells produced a high concentration of chemical signals  that they normally don’t produce, and these signals have traditionally been  integral to producing effective immune stimulation.”
Dhar added that the “dendritic cells recognized the cancer as  something foreign and began to produce high levels of interferon-gamma, which  alerts the rest of the immune system to a foreign presence and signals it to  attack. We basically used the cancer against itself.”
She cautions that the results are preliminary, and the approach  works only with certain forms of breast cancer. But if researchers can refine  the process, this technology may one day serve as the foundation for a new  cancer vaccine used to both prevent and treat disease.
“We particularly hope this technique could help patients with  advanced metastatic disease that has spread to other parts of the body,” said  Dhar, who also is a member of the UGA Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center,  Cancer Center and Center for Drug Discovery.
If the process were to become a treatment, doctors could biopsy  a tumor from the patient and kill the cancerous cells with nanoparticles. They  could then produce activated dendritic cells in bulk quantities in the lab under  controlled conditions before the cells were injected into the patient.
Once in the bloodstream, the newly activated cells would alert  the immune system to the cancer’s presence and destroy it.
“These are the things we can now do with nanotechnology,” Dhar  said. “If we can refine the process further, we may be able to use similar  techniques against other forms of cancer as well.”
Source: University of Georgia

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One comment on “New cancer therapy uses nanoparticles to reprogram immune cells

  1. lukescott313 says:

    interesting article!!


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