The more times metastasised melanoma has mutated and the patient’s immune system has been activated against the tumour – the better the chances of survival after immunotherapy. This is what emerges from a research collaboration between Lund University in Sweden and Herlev university hospital in Denmark. The findings are now published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Using the body’s own immune system to combat tumours, an approach known as immunotherapy, has brought a major breakthrough in cancer care. Whereas we previously had no treatments able to increase survival for certain cancer diagnoses, it is now possible to treat advanced melanoma, for example.
One such immunotherapy method currently under clinical trial on patients with advanced melanoma is adoptive T cell therapy. The treatment is demanding both in terms of resources and for the patient, who needs to be in a condition to withstand it.
Sharpens the T cells
In simple terms, the treatment entails first removing the patient’s own T cells from the tumour. T cells are the part of the immune system that recognises tumour cells. The patient’s cells are then cultured in the lab and subsequently injected back into the patient.
“The aim is for them to seek out and fight the tumour and the circulating tumour cells”, explains Göran Jönsson, researcher at Lund University. He is collaborating with Herlev university hospital in Copenhagen, which is one of few hospitals in Europe currently conducting clinical trials of this form of immunotherapy.