Primary success has been achieved by scientists at the University of Michigan in delivering a customized therapeutic vaccine using nanodiscs for treating melanoma and colon cancer in mice.

Fighting Cancer With Personalized Immunotherapy

Personalized immunotherapy, rapidly emerging field of study aimed at battling cancer, is the process of attacking cancer cells with the help of immune cells in a patient-specific manner.

In the new study published in the journal Nature Materials, researchers were able to use nanodiscs in delivering customized therapeutic cancer vaccine. The nanodiscs are stacked with what are called neoantigens, the mutated genes found in tumor cells.

Through the production of T-cells that can identify neoantigens specific to patients, the technology is able to trigger the immune system to find the cancer mutations, fight and eradicate the cancer cells, and avert further tumor growth.

"We are basically educating the immune system with these nanodiscs so that immune cells can attack cancer cells in a personalized manner," said James Moon from the university's Department of Biomedical Engineering and one of the study's authors.

Unlike preventive vaccines, therapeutic vaccines for cancer are intended to exterminate pre-existing cancer cells.

Nanodisc Technology For Cancer Treatment

Nanodisc technology is made of exceedingly small, synthetic high density lipoproteins that measure approximately 10 nanometers. Nanodiscs are tens of thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair, which is around 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers wide.

"It's a powerful vaccine technology that efficiently delivers vaccine components to the right cells in the right tissues," said corresponding author Anna Schwendeman from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, adding that improved delivery of therapeutic cancer vaccines using nanodiscs results not only in better T-cell responses but in overall vaccine efficacy as well.

Nanodisc Technology Tested On Mice With Colon Cancer And Melanoma

The researchers tested the nanodisc technology on mice suffering from colon cancer and melanoma. They found that after administering the vaccine, about 27 percent of T-cells present in the mice's blood were found to attack the melanoma and colon cancer tumors. On combining the nanodisc technology with immune checkpoint inhibitors, the tumors got killed in about 10 days of the treatment in most of the animal subjects.

After about 70 days, when no recurrence of tumor cells was found, the researchers injected the mice with the same cancerous tumor cells. It was observed that the immune system rejected the tumor cells and did not allow tumors to grow. Therefore it was evident the immune system was able to remember the cancerous cells to provide long-term immunity against the diseases.

"The holy grail in cancer immunotherapy is to eradicate tumors and prevent future recurrence without systemic toxicity, and our studies have produced very promising results in mice," said Moon.

The next step of the study is to see how well the technology works in a larger sample of bigger animals, noted the researchers.

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