Cancer Therapies

Dendritic Cell Therapy

Dendritic cell therapy represents a new and promising immunotherapeutic approach for the treatment of advanced cancer as well as for prevention of cancer. Clinical trials are establishing that the patients’ responses are very encouraging despite being in advanced stages of cancer. Dendritic cell-based immunotherapy is safe and can induce anti-tumour immunity.

For past few decades, cancer researchers have been interested in immunologic treatments against cancer but only little progress was made. From 1990-2000, the first commercially successful category of immune agents to treat cancers emerged: these drugs consisted of individual antibodies, such as Avastin, Herceptin, and Erbitux. These are considered passive immune therapies, while Dendritic cell and T cell therapies are active immune therapies. Dendritic cells were used in clinical trials as cellular mediators for therapeutic vaccination of patients with cancer. More recent advances have led to the successful implementation of dendritic cell therapy in stage IV cancer patients who have tried and failed all other therapies. Dendritic cell therapy, or the so-called Dendritic Cell vaccine is an emerging and potent form of immune therapy used to treat cancer.

Dendritic Cell therapy is an immune therapy which uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The dendritic cell is an immune cell present in the human body that is able to process foreign antigens attacking the T cells that play a central role in the immune system. Although dendritic cells are potent cells, they are not usually present in adequate quantity to allow for a potent immune response.

In one approach, dendritic cell therapy thus involves the harvesting of blood cells (monocytes) from a patient and processing them in the laboratory to produce dendritic cells which are then reinfused to a patient in order to allow massive dendritic cell participation in optimally activating the immune system.

Emerging research indicated yet another approach – dendritic cell-based vaccination. Data showed an improvement in survival. In 2010, the United States Food and Drug Agency (US FDA) approved the first cancer treatment vaccine, which is a type of vaccine that is usually made from a patient’s own tumor cells or from substances taken from tumor cells. A cancer vaccine may help the immune system kill cancer cells.

All cancer preventive vaccines approved by the FDA to date have been made using antigens from microbes that cause or contribute to the development of cancer, but cannot cause the disease itself. Synthetic vaccines are also in development. Likewise, vaccines are also being developed using weakened or killed cancer cells that carry a specific cancer-associated antigen(s) or immune cells that are modified to present such an antigen(s) on their surface. These cells can come from a patient himself or herself (autologous) or from another patient (allogenic). Other vaccines use viruses, yeast, or bacteria as vehicles (or vectors) to deliver one or more antigens into and are modified so that they cannot cause disease. Genetic DNA/RNA to manufacture the tumor-associated antigens so that the cells will make enough of the tumor-associated antigens to stimulate a strong immune response is also being developed.