Immunotherapy is paving a new road towards effective cancer treatment in the mice-eat-mice world of cancer research and has been dubbed the biggest breakthrough of the year by the cancer research institute. We’ve probably got the gist of how our immune system works from high school biology, but how exactly can we harness our body’s defense system to tackle say…cancer? The idea is that we take materials either made by the body or in a laboratory and use them to improve, target or restore our immune system function. Scientists have been tampering with this idea for the last decade, looking to how we can interfere with how our own cells detect antigens to help find and destroy them.
A new study by Professor Qiao and colleagues essentially creates a synergy of techniques that hail as a “thunder and lightning” approach aimed at a very important area, the drainage lymph nodes, which can harbor and carry cancer cells and take them to other areas of the body, this normally spelling disaster in terms of diagnosis as it facilitates cancers ability to spread where it pleases. The teams genius involves taking normal mice immune cells, introducing a virus and placing those very same cells back into their blood stream.
They found the virus was able to evade the immune system by “going under cover” and hitching a ride on red blood cells, replicating in and destroying the cancer cells but leaving the normal cells unharmed, so unlike age old chemotherapy, this is non-invasive. The bonus here is that the immune response to tumors was also greatly enhanced. The whole process seems too good to be true, and potentially the treatment could reportedly be cheap, easy to implement, and be applicable to so many different cancers.