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New strategies work to put cancer on the firing line
Date:1/2/2008

Dr. Yukai He wants to put cancer in the bulls eye.

Cancer really comes from us, the Medical College of Georgia Cancer Center immunologist says of the scary reality that cancer cells are our own cells gone awry. That means our immune system doesnt always see cancer as a horrific invader.

Tumors and T cells, the cellular arm of the immune system and the main player in anti-tumor immunity, cohabitate for many years before the tumor grows, says Dr. He, who recently was named one of the first Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigators, a new initiative to support outstanding young investigators.

The tumor is smart, he says, changing just enough to stay out of the line of fire.

He and collaborators at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the University of Chicago and now MCG are putting together a package they believe will place it dead center.

The researchers are packaging an antigen gene that will alert the immune system in a novel viral vector delivery system while quashing the bodys misguided efforts to protect a tumor.

The treatment could one day follow tumor surgery and chemotherapy in patients when recurrence is likely, says Dr. He, who came to MCG in August from the University of Pittsburgh. It also could work for persistent viral infections such as HIV and human papillomavirus, parasitic diseases such as malaria and bacterial infections such as tuberculosis.

It is antigens proteins on or in all cells that get the attention of the immune system. Dendritic cells present antigens to T cells so that the host immune system will be alerted.

Using animal models of melanoma, researchers at Sloan-Kettering are taking key antigens and modifying them just enough to get the attention of T cells but still result in an immune response that targets the cancer.

Dr. He is looking for the best way to deliver modified antigens, identifying which dendritic cells a
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia  
Source:Eurekalert

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