Bio Eats World

Journal Club: Synthetic Germs, Our Newest Weapon for Fighting Cancer

Willem Mulder and Lauren Richardson

Posted January 14, 2021

Immuno-oncology, which leverages the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, is a true medical revolution. But to date, these therapies have only targeted one of the two arms of the immune system: the adaptive immune system. This is the arm that contains T cells, B cells, and antibodies and is what we generally think of when talking about immunity. But the second arm, the innate immune system, is equally important, as it mounts a fast-acting, non-specific immune response to a board range of invaders. Importantly, some cancers co-opt the innate immune system and use it as a shield against attacks by the adaptive immune system.

In this episode of the Bio Eats World Journal Club, host Lauren Richardson (@lr_bio) is joined by Dr. Willem Mulder (@WillemNANO), Professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, to discuss a new approach to immuno-oncology that engages both arms of the immune system. This method uses engineered, synthetic, nano-scale “germs” to activate the innate immune system, and which works in combination with T cell-activating therapies to destroy cancer cells, even leading to complete tumor remission in mice. The conversation covers how these synthetic germs were developed from an early vaccine to tuberculosis, how they influence immune cell activity, their potential for treating cancer and an array of other conditions, and what is needed to take them out of the lab and into the clinic.

For more details on the study, check out the article “Trained Immunity-Promoting Nanobiologic Therapy Suppresses Tumor Growth and Potentiates Checkpoint Inhibition” published in Cell, and for more on the innate immune system, listen to previous episodes “Journal Club: Why do only some people get severe COVID-19?” and “Journal Club: How to Win an Evolutionary Arms Race

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