Lithuanian scientists started scientific research planning to develop world-unique cancer immunotherapy products. Especially advanced medical products will be manufactured by using exosomes in the process of saturation of dendritic cells with tumour antigens.
The new preparations would be intended for the treatment of three different cancer localizations: glioblastoma, melanoma and lung cancer. The Lithuanian biotechnology company „Froceth“ and the National Institute of Cancer (NIC) are planning to develop them by the beginning of 2019. In total, half million euro will be invested in the research.
“The method of saturation of dendritic cells with tumour antigens developed together with the colleagues from NIC has not been applied in the process of development of other market preparations yet. The new technology will have a significant contribution to the development and implementation of the latest technologies of the treatment of malignant tumours as well as individualization of treatment of patients”, – states the director of “Froceth”, JSC Agnė Vaitkevičienė.
The main methods of treatment that are today used for patients with cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Immunotherapy has lately been applied in combination with these traditional treatment methods more and more often in order to activate the immune system functioning mechanisms and destroy malign cancer cells in this way.
It was proved with tests the best results were obtained by combining immunotherapy products with standard ways of treatment of oncologic diseases: chemotherapy or low-dose radiotherapy.
“Scientists of the entire world look for ways to improve the technologies of individualized treatment and make cancer immunotherapy more effective. It is our priority to create more efficient way to treat cancer. We have worked with partners from the private sector for several years. This partnership enables us to improve the present preparations for cancer immunotherapy and develop new ones“, – indicates the main scientific worker and head of the Laboratory of Immunology of NIC Dr. Vita Pašukonienė.
According to her, monoclone antibody immunotherapy is already applied in Lithuania and it helps to unblock the tumour-inhibited anti-cancer lymphocyte reactions. However, the cancer-caused inhibition of the immune system is a very complex process. Unless the immune system “sees” the tumour, the only way to cause anti-cancer reactions is activation of the patient’s dendritic cells under laboratory conditions.
“Dendritic cells are the main cells of the immune system. The initiation of the immune response and immunological memory depend on them. The application of these cell preparations in medicine would be an especially important breakthrough in the prevention of metastases“, – states the scientist of NIC.
Tumour cell lysates may be the most widespread way of provision of tumour antigens to dendritic cells under laboratory conditions. It is an auxiliary method of treatment of oncologic diseases. In the early stage of the disease, when standard methods are used for its treatment, dendritic cell products can stave off the relapse or progress of the disease. If the disease progresses and standard treatment methods do not provide the desirable effect, dendritic cell vaccine can help to stabilize the patient’s state.
“The advantage of this method is creating the real spectrum of tumour antigens. The product is safe, easily tolerated by the organism and does not have a toxic side effect. Presently, the goal of scientists is to improve its effectiveness. Thus, the methods of “loading” of dendritic cells with the most expedient cancer antigens are improved. An effective immunotherapeutic effect on every certain patient depends namely on them. Our hypothesis is that the exosomes of tumour cells could be an especially reliable carrier of tumour antigens”, – says the director of “Froceth” A. Vaitkevičienė.
Exosomes are nano-sized cell structures for communication where a cell “packs” concentrated information. Cells of every type (and cancer ones are not an exception in this case) excrete certain exosomes which detection in the organism liquids can help to diagnose cancer, monitor the effectiveness of treatment or be used for immunotherapy.
“The results of experimental tests show exosomes can be used effectively for the activation of dendritic cells in the fight against the most aggressive tumour antigens. Exosomes are new biomarkers with a high potential, so the activation of dendritic cells with exosomes should increase the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy and improve the clinical response significantly”, – states the head of the “Froceth” research laboratory and of this project Dr. Adas Darinskas.
According to him, concentrated cell information contained in the composition of exosomes can both specify the information about cancer cells provided to dendritic cells, but also cause a more effective reaction of lymphocytes fighting against cancer cells.
Oncologic diseases are one of the main causes of death in the world. In 2012, about 14.1 million new cases of cancer were recorded in the world. Cancer was the cause of about 8.2 million deaths (14.6 per cent of all deaths). If the morbidity indexes remain similar to the present ones, the World Health Organization prognosticates the number of new cases of cancer will reach 21.4 million every year until 2030.