In another release from the Koch Institute's Image Awards 2016, Ali Roghanian of the University of Southampton UK, visiting the Chen Lab at the Koch Institute, shows us his work on advancing cancer therapeutics. He aims to better understand how the immune system naturally combats pathogens, then harness those same methods for use in the battle against cancer.
If the immune system can be stimulated to recognize cancer as a pathogen, the body's own mechanisms can be used in combination with typical therapies, like chemotherapy. There has already been some success in increasing the efficacy of the treatment while reducing side effects. The idea is to make an antibody against a cancer cell taken from a patient, such that when it's put into the patient's body, it binds the cancer cell. Subsequently, a white blood cell or macrophage will see the cell as a foreign invader, and consume it.
In the winning image, a macrophage (blue) is seen engulfing cancer cells (orange) that have been tagged with a therapeutic antibody. The cancer cells can still outsmart the immune system, however. Work continues to improve the stability of binding antibodies to cancer cells and expand the mode of macrophage activation.