Dendritic Cell Therapy

For the past few decades, cancer researchers have been showing keen interest in immunologic treatments against cancer, but the progress has been relatively slow. Recent advances in cancer research have led to the successful implementation of Dendritic Cell therapy. Dendritic Cell (DC) therapy, is a new weapon in the ongoing fight against cancer. DC therapy incorporates the proven and age-old principles of vaccines, and implements them to generate and/or boost a personalized immune system attack in the body of a patient undergoing cancer treatment.
Delving a bit deeper, when a person receives a vaccine, a small fragment of the microbe is introduced into the person’s body to allow the immune system to recognise and initiate a response. The basic principle behind this is if a person is infected with a real infection, then the body is already familiar, and the immune system is strong and prompt to attack the infection. Thus, the bottom line is to be able to avoid the infection altogether. Nowadays, scientists and doctors are applying this same principle to cancer therapy, but with a slight twist.
Dendritic Cell therapy also identified as Dendritic Cell vaccine is a newly emerging and potent form of immune therapy used to treat cancer. Dendritic cells are a part of the body’s normal helper immune system, called the Antigen Presenting Cells, or APCs. The dendritic cell is an immune cell whose job is to recognise, process and present the foreign antigens to the T-cells in the effector arm of the immune system. Even though dendritic cells are potent cells, they are usually not present in adequate quantity to permit a strong immune response. Hence, Dendritic Cell therapy involves harvesting the blood cells (monocytes) from a patient, and then processing them in a laboratory to produce dendritic cells which are then re-administered to the patientso as toinitiate massive dendritic cell participation in optimally activating the immune system.
Explaining this in simpler terms,a tiny, unique piece or fragment of the cancer is isolated. This can either be a piece of protein, or sugar, or some other molecule. Blood is then drawn from the patient and put through a special filtering process to concentrate a group of dendritic cells. In Dendritic Cell therapy, the basic approach is to expose these dendritic cells to the specific cancer fragment. In a special and simulated environment, the piece or fragment of cancer is grown along with these dendritic cells. A qualified physician then administers these concentrated dendritic cells to the patient to allow a greater exposure to the fighter T cells. Usually, a patient may have to undergo several rounds of this therapy to allow repeated exposure. The purpose behind this is that the patient’s cancer isbattled by the patient’s enhanced or boosted self-immunity. Thus, treatment is in the form of a tailor-made cancer vaccine. Dendritic vaccines are also produced by fusing the patient’s cancer cells with dendritic cells from other human donors.
The US FDA approved the first cancer treatment vaccine in 2010, and it was targeted at fighting prostate cancer. Cancer vaccines have their own side effects which may include inflammation and redness at the site of cell injectionaccompanied by flu-like symptoms. There may also be a few serious, although rare, side effects including allergic reactions and autoimmune conditions. In present times, this method of treating cancer is a part of a comprehensive, combination approach to attacking and fighting cancer. The upside to Dendritic Cell therapy is that this treatment can be easily combined with radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, and other traditional forms of cancer therapies. This combination approach may also include immune modulation therapy, which can optimize the number and enhance the balance of T-cellspresent in the body.
Dendritic Cell therapy is undergoing research for treating several types of cancers, including common cancers like colon cancer and breast cancer. DC therapy will definitely play a more active role in the ongoing battle against cancer, a wonderful fact that brings hope to many cancer patients worldwide.
Multiple myeloma, prostate, colorectal and non-small cell lung cancer have been successfully treated with DC Therapy. This treatment represents a promising and safe form of immunotherapy. Even stage IV cancer patients who have failed all other therapies have shown complete responses to Dendritic Cell therapy.
Though extensive research is continuing in this field of treatment, there are two major concerns that need to be addressed. Firstly, the concentrated dendritic cells don’t always provoke a T-cell response. Secondly, the cells often don’t end up in the lymph nodes, the area where the T-cells multiply rapidly when stimulated. Hence, more studies are being done to actually coax the dendritic cells already present inside the body to fight against cancer cells. This is being achieved by producing cancer cell vaccines which are then uploaded into the dendritic cells which havea large number of receptor sites on their surfaces.

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