June 18, 2014

B-cells Show Promise for Melanoma Immunotherapy

Jiusheng Deng, PhD, and a team of tumor immunology scientists and oncologists from the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University have discovered a revolutionary new approach to cancer immunotherapy harnessing the power of B-cells. The results of their research appear in a paper published today in the journal Cancer Research.

B-cells are best known for their ability to make antibodies to fight off viruses and bacteria, but the use of a novel engineered cytokine named GIFT4 and developed at Emory leads to conversions of normal B-cells to potent anti-cancer promoting cells, as demonstrated in a mouse model of melanoma.

"This new technology creates an opportunity to harness a component of immunity which has never been exploited in cancer cell immunotherapy," says Jacques Galipeau, MD, director of the Emory Personalized Immunotherapy Center (EPIC), leader of the Winship research team and senior author of the paper. “We intend to translate this seminal discovery made in mice into a first-in-human clinical trial."

"As a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center, Winship is focused on delivering innovative cancer treatments to our patients and immunotherapy of this type is at the cutting edge of cancer science," says Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, director of the Winship Cancer Institute.

The basic approach would parallel that done in mice where a blood sample would be treated with GIFT4 fusokine in a specialized lab, and this personalized, augmented B-cell product would serve as a transfusion medicine and companion to cancer therapy. In mice, the delivery of the GIFT4 protein expands B-cells and suppresses melanoma growth, demonstrating a previously unrecognized potential for melanoma immunotherapy.

The paper, "Engineered fusokine GIFT4 licenses the ability of B cells to trigger a tumoricidal T cell response," appears in the online first publication of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Deng and Galipeau were joined by Emory colleagues Shala Yuan, Andrea Pennati, PhD, Jordan Murphy and David H. Lawson, MD; Jian-Hui Wu from McGill University in Canada was also part of the team.

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