Researchers from University of Colorado Bring Promising News for Cancer Treatment
Recent development in cancer treatment introduced a new therapeutic that has shown significant results in phase 1 clinical trials for the treatment of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16)-positive cancers, including head, neck, cervical and anal cancers.
The study was led by Antonio Jimeno, MD, PhD, co-leader of the University of Colorado Cancer Center Developmental Therapeutics Program and Colorado Head and Neck Cancer Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant.
The research demonstrates the potential of a microfluidic squeezing technology used on immune cells to stimulate anti-tumor activity in the subtype of HPV-related cancers.
Moreover, there have been significant other studies and drug trials that explores the possibility of curing cancer diseases and how far technology has advanced the process.
Read the complete story to explore the significance of this breakthrough treatment and challenges involved in developing therapies for HPV-related cancers, and examine the implications of this research for the future of cancer treatment.
What is HPV?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that affects both men and women and is known to cause genital warts and cervical cancer in women.
According to National Cancer Institute (NCI), HPV is responsible for up to 70% of oropharyngeal cancer cases in the U.S., and this number is expected to increase in the coming years.
HPV-related cancers are more difficult to detect, as symptoms often do not appear until cancer has progressed to an advanced stage.
Thus, there are lesser resources available for treating HPV-related head and neck cancers compared to other types of cancer, and its increasing rate has put significant pressure on public health authorities and cancer prevention efforts as well as the development of new treatment strategies.
Furthermore, the treatment for head and neck cancers is particularly challenging as the location of the cancer is difficult to access with traditional therapies like chemotherapy and radiation.
This creates the need for innovative treatments that can effectively target these cancers while minimizing side effects for patients.
New Microfluidic Squeezing Technology: The Research
The researchers from the University of Colorado developed a promising treatment approach for HPV-related cancers with the use of innovative microfluidic squeezing technology.
The microfluidic squeezing technology involves compressing immune cells between two narrow channels, which activates the cells and makes them more effective at targeting cancer cells.
Researchers used this technology to stimulate anti-tumor activity in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), a type of immune cell.
According to Dr. Jimeno, “As opposed to other cell therapies that require a patient’s cells to be genetically modified, this involves a different way of manipulating cells that does not lead to genetic modifications.”
Furthermore, this treatment process is faster and targets specific cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue, promoting better survival rates, and minimizing side effects for patients.
The researchers conducted a phase 1 clinical trial focused on patients with a subtype of HPV16-positive solid tumors.
The trial involved a process called apheresis, which separates whole blood into its individual parts through centrifugation.
The aim of this process was to acquire between 5 and 10 billion PBMCs, which were then sent to a laboratory to be trained to recognize and attack cancer cells.
The PBMCs were put through a process using microfluidic or cell squeeze technology, which opened pores on their surface and fed them a peptide related to the HPV virus.
This enabled the cells to recognize the virus and register it as a memory, which would allow them to work as a resisting force and attack HPV cancer cells when encountered in the future.
The peripheral blood mononuclear cells were then infused back into the patient’s bloodstream during an outpatient therapy session that occurred every 21 days.
Biopsies conducted during the trial showed that the cells were activated and attacking cancer cells, which proves that the treatment was actively working.
Moreover, the results proved the success of phase 1 trials with no harsh side effects and some patients experiencing mild side effects such as fatigue, rash, or a weak immune reaction.
According to Dr. Jimeno, although the technology is still in its nascent stages, it shows promising results. He says, “the fact that the cells used in the therapy are obtained from the patient’s own blood reduces the likelihood of rejection, and the lack of genetic modification on their surfaces reduces the risk of unwanted attention from the immune system.”
Furthermore, microfluidic squeezing technology worked well and could manage the toxicity of the side effects without triggering major immune responses from the body.
For instance, some patients were given therapy for almost a year, and their disease was stable with no advancement.
The therapy offers hope to cancer patients that have exhausted other treatment options, suffered serious side effects, and require remote treatment or supplementary chemotherapy.
We can envision the use of this cell squeeze technology in future cell therapy and immunotherapies, as a phase 1B trial is ongoing.
The initial phase of the trial was focused on determining the safety and dosage of the treatment, while phase 1B is focused on evaluating the effectiveness of the treatment in combination with other therapies, such as combining first-generation cells and immunotherapies.
Moreover, according to the researchers, in the coming future, this therapy could be generated at the point of delivery using small processors, reducing patient wait times.
As research in the cell and immunotherapy field continues to progress, we may be one step closer to developing more effective and targeted therapies for HPV-related cancers, ultimately improving outcomes and quality of life for patients.
Moreover, extensive research and a high cost of investment are required to better understand the mechanisms by which HPV drives cancer development and progression.
Despite these challenges, the use of microfluidic squeezing technology offers hope for the future of cancer treatment through precision medicine.
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