The institute is a vital platform resource for MD Anderson's recently announced and unprecedented Moon Shots Program, which focuses resources and diverse expertise to significantly reduce mortality in the short term and promote cures long term, beginning with eight inaugural cancers.
Unleashing the immune system
Malignant cells are an abnormality that usually attracts a response from the body's immune system, yet cancer often survives by evading or thwarting anti-tumor immunity. Consistently unleashing the power of the immune system against cancer would be a major step forward for cancer patients.
T cells are lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell produced by the thymus, equipped with receptors that recognize and bind to antigens, which may include abnormal cells.
"T cell recognition of a tumor antigen is not enough to activate the T cells against cancer cells, they need a secondary signal to tell them 'that antigen you have is a bad thing, you have to attack,'" said Liu, who is now chief scientific officer and vice president of the Baylor Research Institute of the Baylor Health Care System in Dallas.
OX40 is one of these secondary or co-stimulatory receptor proteins. Liu and colleagues found that when it's activated, it enhances immune attack and blocks suppressors of immune response.
Liu and his MD Anderson colleagues generated and screened hundreds of antibodies that could potentially act as on switches for OX40 by mimicking its natural activator, OX40L, a molecule that binds to OX40. Years of research narrowed the candidates to a handful of activators, or agonists, which were tested in mice and then altered for human use.
"It's gratifying to see MD Anderson and GSK take this important step towards translating a basic science discovery into a potential new therapy that can proceed to clinical trial," Liu
|Contact: Scott Merville|
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center