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New technique for immunotherapy asbestos cancer

Erasmus MC researchers have made a major step in the treatment of asbestos cancer. They have managed to grow tumor cells needed for therapy.

Cleanroom lab dendritsche cellen asbestkankerAsbestos cancer tumors can be treated by activating patients' immune system with their own tumor cells. However, it is difficult and at times even impossible to harvest these tumor cells from the body, which means that this immunotherapy cannot be used. Erasmus MC researchers have now managed to grow these tumor cells. This is likely to result in a new treatment for asbestos cancer. 

Dendritic cells
Activating the immune system by using the body's own immune cells (dendritic cells) and the body's own tumor cells is a technique that has been developed by Erasmus MC and has been shown to be effective in treating asbestos cancer. Erasmus MC researchers are now able to grow these tumor cells from asbestos cancer cell lines. A clinical trial has shown that a mix of these tumor cells combined with the body's own immune cells is safe in the treatment of asbestos cancer, and it has furthermore also been shown to be effective in a number of patients.

The immune system in patients with cancer is suppressed. Over the past years, certain types of immunotherapy have made it possible to reactivate the immune system, which can lead to long-term survival. However, this is easier for certain types of cancer than for others. Asbestos cancer also suppresses the immune system. The tumor prevents the activation of the immune system, which means that the commonly used types of immunotherapy hardly work.

Cultured tumor cells
Prof. Joachim Aerts, pulmonary oncologist at Erasmus MC, led the study. Aerts: "The mix developed from the asbestos cancer cell lines means that we no longer require the patients' own tumor cells. The study has shown that the new method with cultured tumor cells is safe and that it causes activation of the immune system in all the patients. The treatment resulted in a significant reduction of the tumor in a number of patients."

See the press release.

Date published: 7 December 2016