'Designer' lymph nodes could boost cancer vaccines

The immune system has caches of immune cells around the body, known as the lymph nodes, and these cells circulate around the lymphatic system and bloodstream. Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center are developing "designer" lymph nodes that could be used to boost the effects of cancer vaccines.

The immune systems of people with cancer can be compromised by the side effects of chemo- and radiotherapy, as well as by the cancer itself. The aim of these artificial lymph nodes is to rebuild patients' damaged immune systems. This could help them fight the cancer and any infections, and improve their immune response to a cancer vaccine.

The researchers, as part of a collaboration between Moffitt Cancer Center and Scripps Florida, are testing the technology on people with advanced melanoma. They are taking the patient's own antigen-presenting cells and genetically modifying them. The cells are then injected into the patient. The team has seen early signs that the cells are creating "lymph nodes" locally and at sites throughout the body. These nodes are being tested to find out more about their function.

"We used Moffitt's Total Cancer Care tissue biorepository, genomic database, and longitudinal clinical database to identify the novel genes for creating designer lymph nodes," said James Mulé, Ph.D., executive vice president and associate center director for Translational Research at Moffitt. "The gene signature is also associated with better patient prognosis and survival, and will also be used to pre-select patients for immunotherapy interventions."

The research could also have potential to help people, particularly elderly people, with poorly functioning immune systems, to fight infection or to improve their responses to infectious disease vaccines.

- read the press release