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UMD Researcher Helps Arm the Immune System to Fight Cancer
Date:1/7/2014

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Jan. 7, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In 2004, a form of cancer known as neuroblastoma claimed the life of Alexandra (Alex) Scott, a little girl who gained national attention for using her lemonade stand to raise money for cancer research. Now, the organization established in her memory, the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), has awarded University of Maryland (UMD) A. James Clark School of Engineering Assistant Professor Christopher M. Jewell a three-year, $375,000 research grant to support the pre-clinical development of a cancer vaccine technology that could give children like Alex a better chance to have a long and healthy life.

Neuroblastoma, the third most common pediatric cancer, causes nerve cells to turn into tumors. The prototype vaccine uses a unique combination of nanotechnology and immunology to "raise an army" of tumor-hunting immune cells, equip them to attack neuroblastoma, and leave them ready to reactivate if the cancer returns.

The lymph nodes are the body's immune system "command centers," packed with different types of immune cells. Each cell is equipped with a protein that responds to a particular disease or infection. Fragments of viruses, bacteria, and tumors collected in the lymph nodes are presented to these cells as antigens, molecules that provoke a response to a specific threat. When an immune cell encounters an antigen it is designed to respond to, the immune cell "activates" and multiplies. These cells are then released into the blood and tissue to hunt their specific pathogens.

One type of activated immune cell, the central memory T cell, is particularly effective at infiltrating tumors. These cells start life as ordinary, inactive T cells in the lymph nodes that have the potential to become one of a number of active T cell types. Jewell's goal is to enhance the immune system's natural response by enco
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SOURCE A. James Clark School of Engineering
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