(RxWiki News) Chemical signals in the body regulate the immune system. One of the more powerful groups is the category known as cytokines. Early attempts to use the immune system to attack cancer were abandoned because of the many side effects caused by immune system dysfunction.
Now researchers have been able to modify the molecule to where it increases the desired effect of the treatment without the unwanted side effects.
The cytokine in question, interleukin two (IL-2) is one of the most studied molecular immune signals, as it regulating the general inflammation reaction, acting like a 911 call for the beat cops of the immune system, the T cells, which are effective agents against cancer.
"Ask your oncologist about superkine therapy."
A team from the Stanford University School of Medicine led by Christopher Garcia, Ph.D., was able to successfully use a modified form of IL-2 therapy to cure metastatic cancer in a small percentage of patients. The study builds on his earlier research on identifying the precise structure of IL-2, performed in 2005.
“In a substantial subset — about 7 percent — of patients with advanced metastatic melanomas or kidney cancers, IL-2 treatment actually cures the disease,” said Garcia.
“The cells that cause these toxic effects appear to express different levels and types of IL-2 receptors than do the cells that produce the therapeutic effects” continued Garcia. By changing the different parts of the structure of the molecule, the researchers were able to change the nature of the signal slightly, similar to changing the grooves on a key to fit a different lock.
The study involved substantial testing of the many possible configurations of the protein, finally resulting in the molecule the group has named Super-2, what they call a superkine.
In another series of testing in animals, the Super-2 molecule outperformed natural IL-2, and the worst side effect of the enhanced inflammation due to IL-2, secretion of fluid in the lungs, was minimized.
The reason is that super-2 activates T cells at a much lower dose than normal IL-2, never reaching the levels that cause fluid to build up in the lung.
The National Institutes of Health, one of the largest cancer research organizations, is now testing Super-2 in human tumor cells as the next step for development of a pharmaceutical therapy. A date for clinical trials in patients has not yet been set.
The paper was published March 25th in the journal Nature.
The study authors disclosed pending patent applications for the IL-2 superkine as well as ownership of shares in Nascent Biologics Inc.