A Moment of Science

Surprise! Nano Trojan Horse May Help Fight Cancer

Scientists at MIT look to nanoparticles to drastically improve immune-cell therapy.

T_cell

Photo: The Journal of Cell Biology (flickr)

The patients' own immune system soldiers, T cells, are used to combat the tumor.

Immune-cell therapy uses a patient’s own immune cells to attack a dangerous tumor. While this has been a pretty successful method, there are some serious side-effects.

In order for this therapy to work, the patient must also be given a large dose of drugs to help their immune cells multiply fast enough. Being pumped with that amount of medication can be potentially very harmful to the patient — sometimes it can even cause lung and heart failure. Plus, there is no way to insure that the drugs are only working on the body’s bad cells and not the good ones.

Until now.

This new method of immune-cell therapy makes it so the drugs only reach the intended target. Here is how it works:

Doctors must first remove a sample of the patient’s T cells (immune cells) and program them to target the tumor, as is normally done in immune-cell therapy. But there is a twist. Instead of injecting the T cells back in
to the patient and then delivering the drugs, the drugs are actually attached to the T cells in small protective pouches made of nanoparticles.

This way, the drugs are delivered to the tumor right on the ‘backs’ of the T cells and are less likely to harm the body’s healthy cells on the way!

When tested on mice, this new therapy had very promising results. The mice that received this treatment survived the 100-day experiment and all of their tumors disappeared! Mice that did not receive treatment died within 25 days, and mice that received regular T-cell treatment died within 75 days.

Read More:

  • Drugs Encased in Nanoparticles Travel to Tumors on Surface of Immune-System Cells (HealthCanal)
  • Therapeutic Cell Engineering With Surface-Conjugated Synthetic Nanoparticles (Nature)

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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