Cancer immunotherapy, a treatment approach that has gained momentum over the past few years, only helps a small fraction of patients. But researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have developed a nanoparticle that may one day help expand the patient population that benefits from immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy usually falls into 1 of 2 categories: it either prevents cancer cells from hiding from the patient’s immune system or it stimulates the body’s T cells to fight against tumors. The team from Johns Hopkins hoped to devise a nanoparticle platform that could do both.
To accomplish that, the researchers developed “immunoswitch” nanoparticles which simultaneously turn off a pathway on tumor cells that would otherwise render the tumor invisible to the immune system and turn on a specific T cell process that triggers them to fight cancer cells.
The team evaluated its nanoparticle technology in mouse models of melanoma and colon cancer. The animals injected with the nanoparticles lived longer than those that were not treated. In some cases, the animals’ tumor growth was delayed or even reversed following treatment with the team’s immunoswitch particles.
In the study, up to half of the mice in 1 cancer group experienced full remission after the treatment.
The team also reported that they were able to use low concentrations of treatment, which could help alleviate the severe side effects characteristic of dual immunotherapy.