IMAGE: Two images of EVIR-engineered dendritic cells (green) capturing tumor antigens in exosomes (gold/red). Cell nuclei are colored blue. view more
Credit: M. De Palma/EPFL
Immunotherapies are breakthrough treatments that stimulate the patient’s immune cells to attack the tumor through the recognition of aberrant molecules called tumor antigens. They can be very effective, but currently can only cure a minority of patients with solid tumors. Researchers and physicians are now looking into ways of increasing the precision and strength of the immune attack on the tumor.
Dendritic cell vaccines
One approach is the “dendritic cell vaccine”. Dendritic cells are specialized immune cells whose role is to capture antigens from foreign bodies and present them to the immune system’s killer T cells, which will then attack and destroy the invaders.
For the vaccine, dendritic cells are taken out of the patient, “force-fed” with tumor antigens, and finally re-injected back into the patient. The idea is to facilitate the ability of the dendritic cells to prime killer T cells against the tumor, which is notoriously skilled in concealing itself from the patient’s immune system.
Dendritic cell vaccines have achieved some clinical success but not without several limitations. For example, the tumor
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