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Nanoparticles Used to Awaken Immune System Faster May Lead To Mesothelioma Immunotherapy

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Nanoparticles have been one of the most recent targets of cancer research for their ability to deliver anti-cancer drugs directly to tumors. The microscopic delivery system is also the focus of immunotherapy treatment. Now, researchers report that by using nanoparticles they can effectively deliver multiple immunotherapy drugs at the same time, increasing the effectiveness of the treatment for mesothelioma cancer.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center report they have found a “promising new nanotechnology-based delivery method for an immunotherapy combination” by binding two molecules together, according to an April 25 press release from the Center. They found that this one-two punch delivered at the same time was more effective in awakening the body’s immune system to begin fighting the cancer.

“Our study suggests that if you’re able to present two different therapeutics at the same time to immune cells to help them fight cancer, the effect is greater,” said UNC Lineberger’s Andrew Z. Wang, MD, associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology.

Immunotherapy, although still in its early stages of use, has shown to be effective in some lung cancer patients. Keytruda and Opdivo, both FDA-approved for lung cancer, have extended the lives of some mesothelioma patients as well. Mesothelioma, an asbestos-caused cancer of the lining of the lungs, often follows the same protocol as non-small cell lung cancer. Not all patients are responsive to immunotherapy, which is why scientists continue their research into improving the effectiveness of what is considered a promising treatment.

Read about mesothelioma warrior Mavis Nye  achieving remission with Keytruda.

The UNC researchers were able to bind together a checkpoint inhibitor, a drug that spurs the T-cells to  kill cancer cells, and OX40, a new class of immunotherapy, along with a dose of radiation, in a nanoparticle, and direct it to a tumor. They found that the combination “stimulated T-cells at higher rates in laboratory studies than antibodies delivered separately.” In melanoma mouse models, they realized a cure rate of 30 percent.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute conducted a similar study last year to assess the impact the sequence of immunotherapy drug delivery has on survival. Using a PD-1 inhibitor and an OX40 drug, they found that when the OX40 was delivered first treatment was more effective. Possibly, the UNC study results confirm the use of OX40 as an effective immunotherapy drug to be used in combination with other inhibitors, and simultaneous delivery is one step toward a new, effective treatment for mesothelioma patients.

“These results will help us build better delivery systems to maximize the potential of immune-boosting therapy for cancer,” said UNC Lineberger’s Benjamin Vincent, MD, assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Division of Hematology and Oncology.

Read the study in the April 25 issue of Advanced Materials.



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