Stanford researchers eradicated metastasis in mice by activating the T cells in tumors

The research team is led by Ronald Levy and Idit Sagiv Barfi. The team is working on a might possible cancer treatment based on injecting immune stimulating agent directly into the tumour cells. It is a pinpointed or strictly an immunotherapy regimen that eliminates the tumor present in the body of mice.  Clinical trial is being performed on the patients of Lymphoma admitted to the hospitals.


Published in a study by researchers the traces of cancer and untreated metastasis in mice can be eradicated by injecting a combination of two immune stimulating agents right into the solid tumors present in the body of the animal. The results are supporting the evidence that the technique is also working for all types of cancers including the one that arises spontaneously.

doctor view output CT scan.
Doctor view output CT scan (Credits: sudok1/Getty Images under standard license)

The medicine school team believes that the local application of a little amount of the immune stimulating agent is fair enough to serve as a fast and relatively less expensive therapy in treatment of cancer. The side effects observed are also less than usually observed by other methods of body wide immune system stimulation. See list of best liver cancer hospitals in world.

Ronald Levy, MD, professor of Oncology have told that when they use these two agents simultaneously, they see the elimination of the tumors all over the body. This phenomenon bypasses the need to mark the specified tumor immune targets and does not need the activation of the whole immune system of the patient.

Among the two immune stimulating agents, one is already approved by health authorities for its use in humans. Several clinical trials are in the process for the testing for human use of the other agent. Clinical trials were launched on lymphoma patients in January this year. The senior author of the study published in Jan is Levy, who holds the professorships in School of Medicine.

How the therapy affects the body?

The researchers are trying day and night in all countries of the world to find methods to harness the immune system of the human body to fight against cancer. Levy is considered to be the pioneer in this field of cancer immune therapy. It is his laboratory in which the researchers find success in developing the Rituximab. It is the first monoclonal antibody that was approved to be used in humans for the treatment of cancer patients.

There are several methods of immune-therapy. In some approaches the immune-therapy just relies on stimulating the immune system in the whole body. In others the naturally occurring checkpoints of the body are targeted, specified for activating the anti cancer activity of immune cells. See list of top cocaine addiction treatment centers in New York USA.

In another technique by the name of CAR T, the immune cells are removed from the body of patient and are genetically engineered to attack the tumor cells when placed again in the body. This type of treatment is approved for treatment of leukaemia and lymphoma patients. Many of these techniques are successful but have their limitations like side effects, difficult to handle, expensive and long duration of treatment. All these techniques of immunotherapy are advancing day by day and changing the medical world.

According to Levy their approach is to stimulate the immune calls present only in the tumor by one time application of the small amount of two agents. They have observed marvellous bodywide effects in mice. The elimination of tumor occurred all over the body of the mice in one shot.

The disease of Cancer exists in a variety of ways in comparison to the immune system. Immune cells of the body like T cells attack the tumor cells. The natural phenomena behind this are the recognition of a foreign protein present on the cancers cells. T cells infiltrate the proteins and destroy the tumor cells. However when the tumor itself grows in size, the activity of T cells suppresses. This is the basic method of Levy’s work that the minute amount of the agents injected directly into tumor helps in reactivation of cancer specific T cells against tumor.

Agents used by Levy

The two agents used by Levy to reactivate cancer specific T cells are

  • A short strand of DNA named as CpG oligonucleotide works on OX40 receptor on surface of T cells.
  • Second one is an antibody that binds to OX40 activating T cells to lead charge against cancer cells.

How T cells relate to specific cancer cells?

A few of these tumor specific, activated T cells sometimes leave the basic tumor to find their way to other identical tumors present in other parts of body in order to destroy them. This phenomenon was tested and worked correct in the laboratory mice. The mice have undergone transplantation with two identical lymphomas in two different sites of the body. Al though the mice were injected with agents in only one of the tumor but the results had shown that both he tumors had shown regression, treated and the non-treated one. 80 to 90 mice were treated using the method and were cured.

In three of the mice, the cancer reoccurred. But the tumor has again diminished after the second treatment. Same patterns were observed in mice with breast, colon and melanoma tumor. The results have shown that there is no limitation regarding the type of tumor treatment by this method. It is useful in all types unless and until it has been successfully infiltered by immune system.

The mice were genetically engineered to develop breast cancer in their mammary glands spontaneously after being injected they also response to the treatment. The research team has found that after the treatment of the first tumour a resistance is developed from occurrence of future tumor. The treatment has also proved to increase the life span of the animal.

Sagiv Barfi has also worked to explore the specification of T cells. She transplanted two types of tumors into the body of the animal. Barfi transplanted lymphoma cancer cells in two different body parts as well as transplanted a third, colon tumor in another location. Treatment was provided for the lymphoma caused the regression of both lymphoma tumors but did not affect the spread of colon cancer cells.

Levy said that the treatment was a targeted approach. Only the target sharing the same protein is affected. A no 15 patients having low grade lymphoma are taking part in this clinical trial. If the trial is successful, the treatment could be helpful in treating many types of tumors.

It will go to be a great achievement which helps physicians in future to inject the agents into tumors prior to surgical removal. It will be helpful in preventing the reoccurrence of cancer due to metastasis. It will also help to head off the development of tumors resulting from genetic mutations like BRCA1 and 2.

This work is a great achievement of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision of health. It is a clear example of their dedication and goal to prevent disease in healthy and treat it in patients by diagnosing it precisely.  The National Institutes of Health, Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society and the Boaz and Varda Dotan Foundation have provided support in the research. The work was also supported by Stanford’s Department of Medicine.