Dead tumor cells may be used for vaccination

Dead tumor cells

Researchers from the University of Ghent have demonstrated that dead tumor cells are an exceptionally strong stimulus for the immune system in its fight against spreading tumors. The discovery comes from a group of young scientists who study different types of cell death on the molecular level. Dr. Peter Vandenabeele’s team shifted their interest to cancer research when more and more results implied a relation between that process and metastasis and other disease.
They found that using cell death against different types of cancer might be more promising than thought before. The biggest advantage of this approach is that the patient’s immune system would attack only cancer cells and not harm healthy ones, unlike other aggressive anticancer therapies. Furthermore, once activated against dying or dead tumor cells, the immune system should be able to recognize the live tumor cells and attack them as well.
What is new in Dr. Peter Vandenabeele’s study is that necroptosis may be a better option than programmed cell death, as it leads to release of molecules from the dying cells into tissues, which stimulates the immune system to fight the pathogens that caused the infection. The team has developed a therapy that causes necroptosis only in cancer cells, which in turn activates the patient’s immune system against the remaining live cells of the tumor. Tumor cells were isolated, killed by necroptosis and then returned to the organism to activate the patient’s immunity. This might solve the frequent problem of tumor cells developing resistance to apoptosis-inducing agents, since in the case of necroptosis, the agent would be used only to kill a sufficient number of cells that will induce the immune response.