Note: Jeffrey Hubbell is the Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering at the University of Chicago, a professorship established in 2017 to promote innovative work at UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).
By John Easton
By connecting highly effective cancer immunotherapy drugs such as anti-CTLA4 (ipilimumab) and anti-PD-L1 (atezolizumab) to peptides that bind to tissues in and around tumors, a research team based at the University of Chicago found a way to improve the drugs’ impact while limiting treatment-related side effects.
In the last five years, these drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have revolutionized treatment for a wide range of cancers. They can overcome barriers that prevent a patient’s immune system from finding and removing tumor cells. But these drugs, administered through an intravenous drip directly into the blood stream, often trigger troubling autoimmune responses. Two out of three patients receiving this form of immunotherapy have grade-3 or 4 adverse effects. One third of those patients discontinue therapy because of treatment-related problems.
“We wanted to find a more targeted way to give these drugs,” said study author Jeffrey Hubbell, PhD, the Eugene Bell Professor in Tissue Engineering at the University of Chicago. “We felt we could reduce the systemic side effects if we could inject them directly into or around a tumor and, more important, keep them there, concentrating the drug in the place where it ought to go.”
In the November 8, 2017 issue of Science Translational Medicine, Hubbell and colleagues show that injecting the drugs directly into tumor sites reduced systemic side effects and enhanced efficacy. “We weren’t really expecting that both would occur,” Hubbell said. “We were surprised to see such dramatic gains in efficacy.” Read more …