Novel Immunotherapy May Prevent Brain Metastases

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Novel Immunotherapy May Prevent Brain Metastases

Abigail Klein Leichman — Israel21c
Aug 28, 2019

Injection of synthetic DNA material found to activate brain's immune cells and kill invading cancer cells, Israeli researchers say.

Brain metastases are the final, lethal consequence of many aggressive cancers, and researchers are racing to discover preventive measures.

A new Tel Aviv University study finds a known adjuvant — an ingredient used in some vaccines to strengthen the immune response —may be an effective means of preventing brain metastases in patients whose primary tumors have been removed. (Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash)

"Some 20 to 40% of lung, breast and melanoma cancer patients develop brain metastases, and current treatments for brain metastases are ineffective," said Pablo Blinder of TAU's George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences.

"Surgery for removing primary tumors is usually essential, but the period immediately before and after surgery requires that all chemotherapy and radiotherapy be stopped. This creates a high potential for the initiation and rapid progression of deadly metastases," he explained.

"Our study showed that an intravenous injection of CpG-C, an adjuvant of synthetic DNA material, during this specific time frame reduces the development of brain metastases," he said.

The scientists tested the efficacy of CpG-C in reducing brain metastases in mice, whose cancers were of both mouse and human origin. They used cutting-edge imaging techniques to find the specific immune cells involved in the protective effect.

"Our approach gets the immune troops 'ready for combat' in both the brain and the rest of the body. It's not tumor specific, and it has a promising safety profile in humans," added Blinder.

Further animal tests will need to be conducted before human trials could begin.

"We hope that this drug can be implemented as a preventative treatment for various types of metastasizing tumors with the goal of preventing or reducing brain metastases," said Blinder.

Blinder led the study with Amit Benbenishty of TAU's Sagol School of Neuroscience and Prof. Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu of TAU's School of Psychological Sciences, in collaboration with Dr. Lior Mayo of TAU's Sagol School of Neuroscience, Prof. Neta Erez of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine, and Prof. DritanAgalliu of Columbia University Medical Center. It was published in PLoS Biology.

Ben-Eliyahu's group and others have previously shown that CpG-C is beneficial in fighting primary tumors and metastases in other organs.

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