Cancer immunotherapy, meet chimera

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In Greek mythology, the chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing creature composed of the parts of three animals: a lion, a snake and a goat.

Adoptive cell transfer is advancing as a cancer immunotherapy technique. It involves removing some of a patient’s immune cells, culturing them in the laboratory, and then infusing the cells back into the patient. The idea is to enhance the ability of the immune cells to attack the tumors far beyond what the immune system was able of doing on its own.

Two promising examples are the National Cancer Institute’s approach of treating advanced melanoma with IL-2-stimulated immune cells, and several investigators’ approach of genetically engineering T cells to attack leukemias or lymphomas.

Jacques Galipeau and colleagues at Winship Cancer Institute have developed a chimeric molecule for stimulating immune cells, which appears to have unique powers beyond simply the sum of its two parts. The molecule is called GIFT4, a fusion of the immune signaling molecules GM-CSF (often used in cancer treatment) and IL-4.

In a Cancer Research paper published by Jiusheng Deng, Galipeau and colleagues this week, they show that GIFT4 can stimulate anti-melanoma activity in B cells from melanoma patients. This is the first report showing this type of immune cell — known for making antibodies, but not as much for anticancer activity – can be redirected in this way.

Here, the experimental battleground between immune cells and cancer was a mouse, but Galipeau is envisioning that GIFT4 could be used clinically in a way similar to the trials that have already been performed by Rosenberg at the NCI.

“This new technology creates an opportunity to harness a component of immunity which has never been exploited in cancer cell immunotherapy,” Galipeau says in a recent Winship press release. “We intend to translate this seminal discovery made in mice into a first-in-human clinical trial.”

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Posted on by Quinn Eastman in Cancer, Immunology Leave a comment

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Quinn Eastman

Science Writer, Research Communications qeastma@emory.edu 404-727-7829 Office

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