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19 April 2017


Novel nanoparticles have been developed that can prime immune cells to kill cancer cells, it has been announced.

A team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, USA, used mice to show nanoparticle-programmed immune cells can clear, or at least slow, the progression of leukaemia.

Current cellular immunotherapies take a long time to prepare - genetically altering the patient's own T cells and infusing them back. But this new approach could dramatically speed up the process, the developers say.

Dr Matthias Stephan explains: 'Our technology is the first that we know of to quickly program tumour-recognising capabilities into T cells without extracting them for laboratory manipulation.

'The reprogrammed cells begin to work within 24 to 48 hours and continue to produce these receptors for weeks. This suggests that our technology has the potential to allow the immune system to quickly mount a strong enough response to destroy cancerous cells before the disease becomes fatal.'

The study was published on Monday April 17 in Nature Nanotechnology.

Dr Stephan continues: 'I want to make cellular immunotherapy a treatment option the day of diagnosis and have it able to be done in an outpatient setting near where people live.'

This approach still has some way to go before human trials can begin. The team are now searching for new strategies to make the gene-delivery-and-expression system safe, and negotiating with companies that are able to produce clinical-grade nanoparticles.

However, the team has high hopes that their work on T-cell homing nanoparticles will make cellular cancer immunotherapy available to more people. 'We hope that this can also be used for infectious diseases like hepatitis or HIV,' Dr Stephan added.

Source: Smith, T. T. et al. In situ programming of leukaemia-specific T cells using synthetic DNA nanocarriers. Nature Nanotechnology 17 April 2017 doi: 10.1038/nnano.2017.57


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