Nanoparticles give immune cells a boost
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CAMBRIDGE, MA — Programming the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells has had promising results for treating blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. This tactic has proven more challenging for solid tumors such as breast or lung cancers, but MIT researchers have now devised a novel way to boost the immune response against solid tumors.

By developing nanoparticle “backpacks” that hold immune-stimulating drugs, and attaching them directly to T cells, the MIT engineers showed in a study of mice that they could enhance those T cells’ activity without harmful side effects. In more than half of the treated animals, tumors disappeared completely.

“We found you could greatly improve the efficacy of the T cell therapy with backpacked drugs that help the donor T cells survive and function more effectively. Even more importantly, we achieved that without any of the toxicity that you see with systemic injection of the drugs,” says Darrell Irvine, a professor of biological engineering and of materials science and engineering, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the senior author of the study.

Irvine is one of the co-founders of a company called Torque Biotherapeutics that plans to begin clinical

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