Towards Universal Cancer Immunotherapy

Scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have made a breakthrough towards designing an off-the-shelf treatment for immunotherapy against cancer. A synthetic protein tweak can allow immune cells from any donor to be given to any patient without the risk of a dangerous immune reaction. Cancer patients might one day benefit from being administered immune cells from healthy donors. But as things stand, receiving donor cells can cause severe or even fatal immune reactions. A researcher at ETH Zurich has now developed a technology that avoids these.

Edo Kapetanovic is a medical doctor, but for a while now he has devoted himself entirely to research in synthetic immunology. He has completed his doctoral studies in immunoengineering and is working at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering at ETH Zurich in Basel. His big goal is to develop new cancer therapies by providing patients with immune cells derived from donor blood. He is now getting closer to this goal: he has managed to modify donor cells so that they attack only the tumour cells and not patient’s healthy cells. The technology has been tested in the lab in human cells, but it will take more time and development before the patients can benefit from the technology.

Administering donor cells is far from straightforward: the immune system is specialised in distinguishing foreign molecules from ‘self’ and will attack any foreign cell. This is particularly dangerous for immunocompromised patients, as donor cells can recognize patient cells as foreign and trigger a violent and, consequently, fatal immune response in the recipient, known as a graft-versus-host reaction. That is why today’s immunotherapeutic treatments for cancer mainly use a patient’s own immune cells rather than donated cells.

Kapetanovic and his team have now succeeded in engineering immune cells that are safe of graft-versus-host reaction. Generally speaking, approved immunotherapies for cancer take one of two approaches, and both depend on cells known as killer cells, mostly killer T cells. In one approach, experts extract the patient’s own killer cells and modify them in the lab so that they specifically recognise and eliminate cancer cells. These modified cells are then administered to the patient.

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Novavax’s Coronavirus Vaccine Generates Promising Immune Response

Novavax announced Tuesday that its potential vaccine to prevent Covid-19 generated a promising immune response in an early stage clinical trial, but the biotech company’s stock fell briefly on concerns about its safety.

The phase one trial included 131 healthy participants between the ages 18 and 59 at two sites in Australia. Novavax said 106 participants received one of four dose levels of the potential vaccine, named NVX-CoV2373, with or without an adjuvant, which is an ingredient designed to enhance the immune response. The remaining 25 patients received a placebo. Participants received two doses of the potential vaccine via intramuscular injection approximately 21 days apart, the company reported. The vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe are necessary to build immunity to the virus, and killer T-cells, the company said. Additionally, the neutralizing antibodies that were produced were higher than those seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19, Novavax underscored. The immune response was also stronger for those who had the adjuvant, the company said.

Novavax explained that the vaccine was well tolerated with no serious adverse events reported. Most patients reported tenderness and pain at the injection after the first dose, with some patients also reporting headaches, fatigue or muscle aches. Only one participant in the trial experienced a mild fever after a second dose, the company noted. Earlier media reports and analysts cited eight possible hospitalizations related to the study, but the company said no patients were hospitalized.

https://www.cnbc.com/