Nanovaults deliver drugs that kick-start the immune system against lung cancer

Last week, we discovered how UCLA scientists are using naturally occurring nanosized "vaults," shaped like barrels, to deliver special "nanodisks" packed with therapeutic drugs. This week, we hear about many of the same people on that UCLA team using these nanoscale vaults to deliver drugs that "wake up" the body's immune system to fight lung cancer. The nanovaults were engineered to slowly release a protein, the chemokine CCL21, into the tumors of mice with lung cancer. According to UCLA researcher Leonard Rome, the protein stimulated the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells.

"Researchers have been working for many years to develop effective immune therapies to treat cancer, with limited success," said Rome in a release. "In lung tumors, the immune system is down-regulated and what we wanted to do was wake it up, find a way to have the cancer say to the immune system, 'Hey, I'm a tumor and I'm over here. Come get me.'"

The nanovaults have been engineered to slowly release the protein into the tumor, acting like a time-release capsule.

UCLA's Steven Dubinett emphasized that the nanovault delivery method could add a much-needed weapon in the fight against lung cancer. "It's crucial that we find new and more effective therapies to fight this deadly disease," Dubinett said in the release. "Right now we don't have adequate options for therapies for advanced lung cancer."

- take a look at the release from UCLA
- and the study in the open access journal PLoS ONE