A new test to show how the immune system could respond to vaccines for leukaemia has been developed by academics based at the University of Bedfordshire.
The test which uses just a microscope slide, proteins and a little patient blood will be able to inform immunotherapy clinical trial development and eventually direct patient treatment of leukaemia, making it more personalised.
The paper ‘Application of the pMHC Array to Characterise Tumour Antigen Specific T Cell Populations in Leukaemia Patients at Disease Diagnosis’, published today (Thursday 22 October) in the Public Library of Science (PLoS One); describes how cancer specific-proteins can be spotted onto microscope slides, incubated with blood samples from patients and used to show whether the immune system can recognise these cancer specific-proteins.
Lead author Dr Barbara Guinn, Deputy Director of the Research Graduate School at the University and a Reader in Cell Biology & Biochemistry said: “This would allow us to know how good a patients’ immune system is, and potentially which proteins their immune system will react to, allowing us to prioritise which proteins we use to develop anti-cancer vaccines.”
“In the future we may be able to monitor patient immune responses as they are treated in clinical trials, helping us to direct the immune system more efficiently against cancer cells.”
Dr Guinn explains how immunotherapy – the use of vaccines to stimulate the immune system, can cause the immune system to only kill cancer cells – leaving healthy cells to repopulate the bone marrow in leukaemia patients.
Dr Guinn has spent a large part of her career investigating the differences between cancer cells and normal cells in healthy tissue in terms of the proteins they make.
She has been able to identify a number of proteins that are over expressed in tumour cells but not in healthy cells. “Some of these proteins act as biomarkers for patient survival,” said Dr Guinn “and some of them have helped us understand more about how cancer develops in sub-groups of patients with leukaemia.”
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