Research team develops cancer-curing T-lymphocyte-based therapy to eradicate malignant tumours

10/18/05

Montreal, October 18, 2005 – In a major research initiative funded by The Terry Fox Foundation, Claude Perreault, Canada Chair in Immunobiology at the Institute of

Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) of the Université de Montréal, has succeeded in developing a new approach to eradicate malignant melanoma tumours in mice. The findings of Dr. Perreault and his research team are reported in an article just published in the online edition of Nature Medicine, and soon to be published in the print edition of the publication.

In brief, the method developed by Perreault consists of administering T-lymphocytes – cells whose function it is to recognize and destroy abnormal cells – from a healthy mouse donor to mice with cancer. These lymphocytes are pre-immunized against a specific antigen (H7a) present in host mouse cancer cells. Although the target antigen is found in some of the host's healthy cells, the treatment does not cause any side effects because the anti-H7a lymphocytes cluster almost exclusively around the tumour site where they are attracted to the molecule VCAM-1 present on the blood vessels that irrigate the tumour. The T-lymphocytes produce interferon gamma and perforine/granzyme to eradicate cancerous cells.

"We are very pleased with the insights yielded to date from this research project which our team initiated in 2003, explains Dr. Perreault. Thanks to another five-year grant from the Canadian Cancer Society, we have moved on directly to explore the cancer-curing potential of this immunotherapeutic method in the treatment of human melanoma. We may be only a few years away from testing the application on human beings. The prospect of this work leading to the development of an effective, nontoxic and non-invasive therapy against certain types of cancer for broad clinical use is exciting for every basic research students, scientist and doctors working on this project."

"Malignant melanoma is a devastating disease, affecting 4,300 Canadians this year and leading to 880 deaths. In fact, melanoma rates are increasing for both women and men," said Dr. Michael Wosnick, executive director of the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the research arm of the Canadian Cancer Society and The Terry Fox Foundation. "For these reasons, these results are promising and if proven successful in human clinical trials, this therapy could have a tremendous impact on the treatment of this disease."

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