View Full Version : Adoptive Immunotherapy’s Time Has Come

08-28-2015, 02:52 PM
Anne McGovern

Modifying a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer is an attractive idea, but so far researchers have been unable to collect enough cells from patients to fully develop this adoptive immunotherapy approach. Now, researchers overcome this hurdle with an efficient new method for harvesting T cells from blood samples. Read more...

Although adoptive immunotherapy has been on the cancer treatment scene for over a decade, only recently have researchers begun to pursue it with deep passion and vigor. This approach works by using a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. A provider collects a certain subset of the patient’s immune cells, such as T cells, proliferates and trains them to attack a specific tumor type, and then reintroduces them back into the body to do their business. However, one major problem with this method is that the desired cells are extremely rare, making it difficult to harvest enough cells in a timely fashion. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins University led by Jonathan Schneck have developed a way to do just that with magnetic nanoparticles, dubbed Nano-aAPCs. The aAPC part of the particle, which stands for artificial antigen-presenting cell, was also developed by Schneck and his lab team.

“If we look at a body and normal T cells, we can find that there are 10 million different T cells that are specific for different [human leukocyte antigen] HLA molecules and different antigens,” Schneck explained. “What we’ve done as part of this system is loaded up all those HLA molecules on a little bead with one tumor antigen, and that’s what allows it to bind to a specific T cell and not the others.”
After the nanoparticles bind to their predestined T cell partners, the bead-bound cells are drawn to a magnetic column, where they stick, while the rest of the unwanted cells pass through. Then the target cells are lifted out, ready for the rest of the immunotherapy process: expansion and enrichment.

In addition to targeting T cells, the team’s Nano-aAPCs can also be used to collect another cell type popular for immunotherapy applications: tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). “In the TIL population, there are a lot of things that are not relevant—not tumor specific,” Schneck explained. In this case as well, the magnetic nanoparticles can be used to efficiently collect those that are relevant.”

At the moment, the method is ready to go but must still be fine-tuned before it can be released for wider use. “Adoptive immunotherapy’s time has come,” Schneck said. “And we’re excited to be in a position to hopefully be able to lead through with a breaking, novel approach towards it.”


Karlo Perica, Joan Glick Bieler, Christian Schütz, Juan Carlos Varela, Jacqueline Douglass, Andrew Skora, Yen Ling Chiu, Mathias Oelke, Kenneth Kinzler, Shibin Zhou, Bert Vogelstein, Jonathan P. Schneck. Enrichment and Expansion with NanoscaleArtificialAntigenPresenting Cells for Adoptive Immunotherapy. American Chemical Society. Published online July 14th, 2015.