An innovative study led by engineers and medical researchers from the University of Minnesota̵
The study was published in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed, open-access scientific journal published by Nature Research.
Instead of using chemicals or radiation, immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps a patient’s immune system fight cancer. T cells are a type of white blood cell that are key to the immune system. Cytotoxic T cells are like soldiers searching for and destroying target invaders.
Although immunotherapy has been successful in some types of cancer in the blood or blood-forming organs, T-cell function is much more difficult in solid tumors.
“The tumor is a kind of barrier, and the T cell has to go through the glove to reach the cancer cells,” said Paolo Provenzano, senior author of the study and an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota, College of Science and Engineering. “These T cells get into tumors, but they just can’t move well and can’t go where they need to go before they run out of gas and are exhausted.”
In this first-of-its-kind study, researchers are working to design T cells and develop engineering design criteria to mechanically optimize cells or make them more “capable” of overcoming barriers. If these immune cells can recognize and reach the cancer cells, they can destroy the tumor.
In the fibrous mass of the tumor, the stiffness of the tumor causes the immune cells to slow down about twice – almost as it flows in quicksand.
“This study is our first publication in which we identified some structural and signaling elements where we can tune these T cells to make them more effective cancer fighters,” said Provenzano, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, Center for Masonic crab. “Every ‘obstacle’ within a tumor is a little different, but there are some similarities: After designing these immune cells, we found that they move through the tumor almost twice as fast, no matter what obstacles are in their path.
To construct cytotoxic T cells, the authors used advanced gene editing technologies (also called genome editing) to modify T cell DNA so that they can better overcome tumor barriers. The ultimate goal is to slow cancer cells and speed up engineered immune cells. Researchers are working to create cells that are good at overcoming various types of barriers. When these cells mix together, the goal is for groups of immune cells to overcome all different types of barriers to reach cancer cells.
Provenzano said the next steps are to continue studying the mechanical properties of cells to better understand how immune cells and cancer cells interact. Researchers are currently studying engineered immune cells in rodents and are planning clinical trials in humans in the future.
While initial research focused on pancreatic cancer, Provenzano said the techniques they were developing could be used in many cancers.
“Using a cellular engineering approach to fight cancer is a relatively new field,” Provenzano said. “This allows for a very personalized approach with applications for a wide range of cancers. We believe we are expanding a new line of research to look at how our own bodies can fight cancer. This could have a big impact in the future.”
Researchers are designing cells to better target cancer
Erdem D. Tabdanov et al, Engineering T cells for improving 3D migration through structurally and mechanically complex tumor microenvironments, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-22985-5
Provided by the University of Minnesota
Quote: New study optimizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer (2021, May 14), retrieved on May 15, 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-05-optimizes-body-immune- cancer.html
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