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UCLA scientists discover new way to wake up the immune system using nano vaults to deliver drugs
Date:5/3/2011

UCLA scientists have discovered a way to wake up the immune system to fight cancer by delivering an immune system-stimulating protein in a nanoscale container called a vault directly into lung cancer tumors, harnessing the body's natural defenses to fight disease growth.

The vaults, barrel-shaped nanoscale capsules found in the cytoplasm of all mammalian cells, were engineered to slowly release a protein, the chemokine CCL21, into the tumor. Pre-clinical studies in mice with lung cancer showed that the protein stimulated the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells, potently inhibiting cancer growth, said Leonard Rome, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, associate director of the California NanoSystems Institutes and co-senior author of the study.

"Researchers have been working for many years to develop effective immune therapies to treat cancer, with limited success," said Rome, who has been studying vaults for decades. "In lung tumors, the immune system is down-regulated and what we wanted to do was wake it up, find a way to have the cancer say to the immune system, 'Hey, I'm a tumor and I'm over here. Come get me.' "

The study appears in the May 3, 2011 issue of PLoS One, a peer-reviewed journal of the Public Library of Science.

The new vault delivery system, which Rome characterized as "just a dream" three years ago, is based on a 10-year, on-going research effort focusing on using a patient's white blood cells to create dendritic cells, cells of the immune system that process antigen material and present it on the surface to other immune system cells. A Phase I study that is part of the effort, led by ULCA's Dr. Steven Dubinett, used a replication-deficient adenovirus to infect the dendritic cells and prompt them to over-secrete CCL21, the first time the chemokine has been administered to humans. The engineered cells 10 million at a time were then injected directly int
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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