Scientists at MIT have made a discovery that could expand the potential of immunotherapy, enabling it to treat wider variety of cancers. The breakthrough stems from a newfound ability to jump-start the body's immune system with the help of injured cancerous cells, a technique shown to be capable of completely eliminating tumors in mouse models of the disease.
Immunotherapy is a highly promising branch of cancer treatment that seeks to supercharge the body's natural defenses against cancer. There are many possibilities when it comes to how this can be achieved, but the approach pursued by the MIT scientists behind this new study begins with removing tumor cells from the body and then treating them with chemotherapy drugs, at varying dosage levels, and re-inserting them into the tumor.
The idea was to tap into a phenomenon called immunogenic cell death, in which dead or dying tumor cells send out signals that attract attention from the immune system. Delivering these damaged cells back into the tumor along with immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint blockade inhibitors, which enhance the ability of T cells to attack cancers, was hoped to bring about their swift demise.