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KIST: Overcoming the Current Limitations of Cancer Immunotherapy Through Immunogenic Clearance

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  • Coadministration with conventional anti-cancer drugs, the next
    generation immunotherapy.
  • Activation of phagocytes targeted towards cancer cells

Cancer immunotherapy harnessing the immune system to treat cancer is
drawing a lot of attention of many medical staff and researchers because
of unprecedented responses in the clinic. However, for most types of
cancer, only a minor fraction of patients respond to immunotherapy.
Also, immunotherapy is expensive, and the rising costs of other
essential cancer treatments add more to the financial burden.
Researchers at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST)
have released a next generation immunotherapy that activates the body's
own immune cells to eradicate cancer cells.

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Figure of cancer immunotherapy through immunogenic clearance (Graphic: Business Wire)

Figure of cancer immunotherapy through immunogenic clearance (Graphic: Business Wire)

Dr. In-San Kim of KIST and Dr. Seung-Yoon Park of Dongguk medical
college successfully collaborated to develop a drug that maximizes
anti-cancer immunity by effectively activating dendritic cells
(phagocytes). This drug enhances the phagocytes‘ ability to effectively
take up the cancer cells, and further activates T cells recognizing only
the cancer cells due to the amplified immune response, thereby making it
possible to selectively attack the cancer to be.

Using a ROCK inhibitor that inhibits the 'Rho kinase (ROCK)' signal, the
researchers demonstrated that the cancer cell-phagocytic capacity of
dendritic cells is enhanced. In addition, the activity of these
phagocytes can further activate important anti-cancer immune cells (CD8+
T cells) and effectively remove cancer.

Furthermore, the researchers found that doxorubicin, an existing
anti-cancer drug that can induce the immunogenic death of cancer cells,
coadministered with ROCK inhibitor can maximize tumor-specific immunity
through immunogenic clearance. In particular, such therapeutic strategy
not only effectively removes the primary tumor, but also prevents tumor
recurrence by eliciting durable anti-tumor immunity.

Dr. Kim stated, "We have established a new understanding of ‘Intrinsic
cancer vaccination', which treats cancer by activating the intrinsic
immune system of the human body to recognize cancer cells as an enemy.
Moreover, ROCK inhibitor has already been approved for clinical use, and
the strategy of combining this drug and doxorubicin opens the way for
patients to access cancer immunotherapy easily instead of expensive
treatments. It is expected to be used as a next-generation cancer
immunotherapy that can overcome the limitations of current cancer
immunotherapy."

This research was published in recent issue of Nature Communications.

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