Researchers examine efficacy of immunotherapy for squamous head and neck cancers

In the continued medical research for effective treatment of cancer, a team of researchers have demonstrated the effectiveness of immunotherapy in mice, especially for cancers of the head and neck that often become resistant to this therapy. The therapy involved targeting an enzyme that plays a key role to slow the growth and spread of tumors significantly.

The findings of the study are published in the online edition of Molecular Cell. The findings of the study will help researchers to develop more refined methods to fight highly invasive neck and head squamous cell cancers, which mainly affect the nose, throat, and mouth.

Meanwhile, immunotherapy used as a clinical treatment for a number of types of cancers works by harnessing the natural defense of the body to combat diseases. Nonetheless, some cancers, including neck and head squamous cell cancers don’t respond well to the therapy as other types of cancers. In fact, the prognosis of head and neck cancers is poor, with the treatment lasting for a maximum of five years, which necessitates an urgent requirement for effective treatments.

The study demonstrates that targeting the vulnerability in the cellular process of tumor duplication and immunity, immunotherapy could affect the response of tumor cells to immunotherapy.

The enzyme that was studied is KDM4A – the epigenetic factor- is a molecule that controls gene expression, silences some genes in cells and activates others. Clinically, for squamous neck and head cancers, overexpression of KDM4A favors gene expression associated with replication of cancer cell and spread.

In fact, it is well understood that tumor cells carry the risk to spread undiscovered by the immune system, and without inspection can spread to lymph nodes or other body parts.

Immunotherapy pins hope for new cancer treatments, says research

In a breakthrough development in medical science, immunotherapy is emerging to be alternative for traditional cancer treatments. Until so far, for cancer treatment, patients were limited to four options: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. However, since a long time, harnessing the power of the immune system to attack and destroy cancerous cells is the Holy Grail, opine medical researchers.

Nonetheless, recent breakthroughs in immune-oncology and new findings reveal to be close to treat cancer with immunotherapies. The findings of the study is published in Science.

Meanwhile, with advancement in medicine, immunologists have discovered methods to engineer some critical elements of human anatomy. Immunologists now engineer T-cells and white blood cells to help to detect and target cancer cells and remove them from the body. The approach has led to interesting advances in cancer treatment and for remission in some patients. Nonetheless, more research is required before this T-cell therapy becomes more accessible.

Alternatively, some other approaches developed that stimulate the immune system without eliminating the T-cells from the body. Termed bispecific T-cell engaging antibodies, the ‘off-the-shelf’ protein-based treatments have proven to be effectual in treating patients with severe lymphoblastic leukemia.

For such treatments, the ideal to make protein molecules with two arms. The first arm to detect the cancer cell and fasten to it. Whilst, the second arm binds to T-cells. In this structure, the protein drug brings the T-cells close to the tumor cells, which activates the T-cells to kill the tumor cells.

Importantly, the two-armed proteins would avoid healthy cells and attack only cancer cells. This technique of protein-based immunotherapy could make a difference, said the lead researcher.