OCT 08, 2019 3:03 PM PDT

Using temperature to awaken immune response to fight brain cancer

Glioblastoma is the most common form of adult brain cancer and also one of the most aggressive human cancers. Immunotherapy has yet to be shown proven effective against glioblastomas, and the length of survival for patients with the tumors following aggressive surgical resection, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy is still only fourteen months. About 14,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.

The dreary reality of this diagnosis is what makes new research published in Advanced Therapeutics so hopeful. As the collaborating authors of the study explain, their research details a technique that aims to take advantage of temperature in order to, “induce accumulation of requisite immune cells in the glioblastoma microenvironment, thereby transforming a “cold” to a “hot” immune microenvironment.”

 

"Our body has armies of white blood cells that help us fight off bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. This constellation of cells constitutes our immune system," comments senior author Clark C. Chen, MD, Ph.D., Lyle French Chair in Neurosurgery and Head of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "One of the key reasons why glioblastoma is so aggressive is that it shuts off this immune system.”

And that’s also why glioblastomas don’t respond to immunotherapy. "Immunotherapy works by activating the white blood cells that are present in many cancer types. For reasons that are not clear, glioblastomas contain few white blood cells. So, there is nothing for immunotherapy to activate," adds co-senior author Andrew Kummel, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California San Diego.

But let’s go back a moment. What exactly does a “cold” or “hot” immune microenvironment refer to? Previous studies have shown that glioblastomas produce a “cold” microenvironment, meaning one that is lacking the substrate immune cells that would be necessary for immunotherapy to be effective. Hence, the scientists had the idea that by manipulating the temperature of the immune microenvironment of a tumor, they could potentially activate more immune cells, making the tumor more susceptible to immunotherapy. They call this temperature manipulation the Goldilocks effect, referring to the story of the young girl who tastes three different bowls of porridge, one too hot, one too cold, and one just right.

Roughly 14,000 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma every year; it is one of the most agressive cancer tumors. Photo: Pixabay

This discovery was unexpected even to the researchers, says Chen. "Impressively, immunotherapy works only when the ultrasound is adjusted to maintain a stable body temperature as the cancer cells are ruptured," muses Chen. "Temperatures that deviate too much from the body temperature appear to compromise the effectiveness of the white blood cells. This 'Goldilocks' aspect of immunotherapy was not previously appreciated."

Already the team has collaborated with Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Emad Ebbini, to develop an ultrasound system that is able to manipulate the tumors’ microenvironment based on the findings. Ebbini comments, "Our ultrasound is a perfect fit for the type of clinical application that Dr. Chen has developed. We are working toward a first-in-human study to test our ultrasound in glioblastoma patients."

Sources: Advanced Therapeutics, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 24, 2021
Technology
CRISPR Helps Identify New Therapeutic Target for Leukemia
AUG 24, 2021
CRISPR Helps Identify New Therapeutic Target for Leukemia
Researchers may have found a new druggable target in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), thanks to a CRISPR scre ...
SEP 02, 2021
Immunology
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
SEP 02, 2021
Hobit Activates Cancer-Killing Immune Cells
Innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, are specialized immune cells that are increasingly entering the research spotlight. Thes ...
OCT 09, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
The Anti-Cancer, Copper-Binding Compounds Found in Fish
OCT 09, 2021
The Anti-Cancer, Copper-Binding Compounds Found in Fish
In the world's waterways, fish are confronted with endless challenges. For example, they have to defend themselves from ...
OCT 24, 2021
Microbiology
New Treatment Approach Uses Bacteria to Deliver Drugs to Cancer Cells
OCT 24, 2021
New Treatment Approach Uses Bacteria to Deliver Drugs to Cancer Cells
Bacteria can be found almost everywhere, and they can serve many beneficial purposes. Scientists are now using bacterial ...
NOV 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Scientists Enter Uncharted Territory of the Cancer Genome, Emerge Victorious
NOV 23, 2021
Scientists Enter Uncharted Territory of the Cancer Genome, Emerge Victorious
Cancer is a genetic disease—it stems from specific changes in the DNA sequences of the cancer cell genome. Over th ...
DEC 19, 2021
Cancer
An Antibody to Clear the Way for Drug Delivery to Tumors
DEC 19, 2021
An Antibody to Clear the Way for Drug Delivery to Tumors
Tumors require blood vessels to obtain nutrients and growth factors needed for their expansion.  Many tumors effici ...
Loading Comments...