Three researchers from the UMCG have been awarded a grant of € 500,000 by the Dutch Cancer Society [KWF Kankerbestrijding] for research into a new treatment for prostate cancer. The focus of their research will be on boosting the ‘chemo vaccination effect’, whereby after chemotherapy, dead cancer cells help to generate an immunoreaction to living cancer cells. The project will contribute to the ongoing search for better vaccines for treating or preventing prostate cancer and other forms of cancer.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer among men. The number of cases has risen steeply over the past years. If detected in time, prostate cancer can be cured. Surgical removal of the affected prostate is one of the treatment options, but this is a complex procedure that can lead to impotence and incontinence. However, if it has spread, the disease is almost impossible to treat and life expectancy is short.
Researchers recently discovered that the dying and dead cancer cells resulting from treatment using a certain form of chemotherapy can prompt an immunoreaction to the cancer cells that are still active. Unfortunately, this reaction (also known as the ‘chemo vaccination effect’) is too weak to suppress the disease. The aim of this research is to find ways of boosting this effect. To achieve this, it is important that certain processing cells (dendrites) in the immune system become more adept at finding the dead and dying cancer cells so that they can consume and process them more effectively.
Bearing this in mind, researchers Wijnand Helfrich and Edwin Bremer (Surgical Oncology) and oncological urologist Igle Jan de Jong have developed new recombinant protein molecules that are able to deliver certain ‘immune boosting’ signals to the surface of prostate cancer cells selectively. One of these signals is a so-called ‘eat me’ signal. Delivering this signal to cancer cells encourages the dendritic cells already present to up their game. In addition, immunological ‘bait’ is supplied in and around the prostate cancer cells to entice more dendrites towards these prostate cancer cells.
The drug study will initially be carried out in the UMCG laboratories. If the results are encouraging, the researchers will decide whether the drugs they have developed can be adapted for use in patient care. The entire study, which lasts 4 years, will take place in the UMCG.
More information is available from the press information officers at the UMCG, tel. +31 (0)50 361 22 00.
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