Scientists use nanoparticles to boost immune system tumor defense

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 2 years ago

A team of MIT researchers has discovered a new way to increase immune response to cancer cells using nanoparticles. Using nanoparticle “backpacks,” which hold the immune-stimulating drug IL-15, and attaching them to T-cells, they enhanced T-cell activity and observed tumor disappearance in more than half of the animals in the experiment.

“We found you could greatly improve the efficacy of the T cell therapy with backpacked drugs that help the donor T cells survive and function more effectively,” said Darrell Irvine, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the senior author of the study. “Even more importantly, we achieved that without any of the toxicity that you see with systemic injection of the drugs.”

Irvine and his team created a novel nanoparticle that can carry a large amount of IL-15 and only degrade and release the drug when the T-cell reaches the tumor.

“That allowed us to link T cell activation to the drug release rate,” Irvine said. “The nanogels are preferentially dissolving when the T cells are in sites where they see tumor antigen: in the tumor and in the tumor-draining lymph nodes. The drug is most efficiently being released at the sites where you want it and not in some healthy tissue where it might cause trouble.”

Irvine hopes that his unique approach to fighting tumors can pave the way for more effective cancer treatment. Not only that, he plans to continue exploring other drugs that are more effective at stimulating T-cells than IL-15.

The findings were published in Nature Biotechnology.