Weakened tumor cells can provide valuable intel to immune cells.
Yesterday, we discussed how the combination of immunotherapy and radiation helped former U.S. president Jimmy Carter overcome melanoma. The logic behind that strategy was that the radiation would damage cancer cells and cause them to release their inner contents and stimulate an immune response against the remaining cancer cells.
Another immunotherapy strategy—a vaccine called GVAX—takes this concept a step further. It also involves exposing tumor cells to radiation, but with GVAX, tumor cells are removed from patients and then irradiated “in a dish.” These cells are also modified so that they produce a molecule called GM-CSF, which is intended to support a robust, tumor-specific immune response once these cells are transferred to patients.
GVAX is currently being evaluated for several cancers in clinical trials, including some in combination with checkpoint immunotherapies.
Image credit: Cancer Research Institute