What's New in Psychiatric and Neurologic Disorder Immunotherapy?

New studies are investigating the link between psychiatric disorders and the immune system. 

Treatments that modify the immune response, immunotherapy, are increasingly employed and researched to address many disease processes including autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer. However, the link between the immune system and the brain led to investigations regarding the role of immune function in mental health. Scientists found that the brain has a lymphatic system that links to the peripheral immune system. Also, T cells found in the meninges have an influence on cognition. The role of the immune system and effectiveness of immunotherapeutic approaches for psychiatric disorders have become important subjects of study. 

Personalized Vaccine Fights Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer, while common, is challenging to treat, but a new study is looking into an immunotherapeutic approach using a vaccine from dendritic cells.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death overall in women, but is the leading cause of death due to cancer of the female reproductive system. Ovarian cancer continues to be a challenge to treat, remission is difficult to achieve, and recurrence is common. The treatment approaches used or being studied involve chemotherapy, targeted therapy (to limit damage to normal cells), and immunotherapy. The study of immunotherapeutic approaches is ongoing in order to limit adverse effects in patients and to spare normal tissue from the toxicity seen with chemotherapy. To this end, researchers recently studied an immunotherapeutic approach using a vaccine derived from dendritic cells.

Stem Cell Method Sheds Light on Heart Disease

Studying the biological processes that lead to the development of heart disease is essential in the study of preventive and therapeutic approaches to combat the illness.

One in every four deaths in the US is due to heart disease, and the most common type is coronary heart disease caused by arteriosclerosis, a hardening and thickening of the arteries. Studying the biological processes that lead to the development of arterial disease is essential in the study of preventive and therapeutic approaches to combat cardiovascular disease. In vitro methods important for studying disease mechanisms are challenging because explanted endothelial cells can lose their distinctive characteristics.

New Improvements for Prostate Cancer Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is a highly studied treatment for cancers, and is now being considered for the treatment of prostate cancer, the most common cancer diagnosis for U.S. men.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis for men in the U.S. and a leading cause of cancer-related death. A heavily studied cancer treatment approach is immunotherapy and is increasingly being investigated for the treatment of prostate cancer. Although results of immunotherapy trials for prostate cancer present many challenges (relapse and development of resistance in some patients), they still show potential therapeutic promise.

PBMCs and Psoriasis Treatments

Scientists examined the peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) profiles of patients with and without psoriasis, including those that both responded to classic treatments and didn’t respond. They then analyzed the profile of those immune cell types. Here are the results of that study.

There are often differences among patient populations for a given disease in how effective a treatment provides medical relief. An important part of personalized medicine is identifying patients that are not likely to respond to a treatment regimen for a specific disease or condition. Doing this can limit the loss of time and resources in using ineffective treatments and can allow the use of personalized treatments in these populations.

New Cancer Immunotherapy Approach Seeks to Supercharge T cell Activity

An independent study [1] published by MedImmune/AstraZeneca cites the use of HemaCare leukopaks to assist in the development of a novel approach to treating cancer.

The new technique is based on an engineered protein named MEDI6383, and preliminary studies of its efficacy against cancer have been promising enough to launch a Phase 1 clinical trial.

The biggest hurdle doctors face when treating cancer is the inability of the body to distinguish between normal cells and cancer cells. Cancer cells are essentially normal cells that are damaged by mutations in particular genes. These mutations can result, first and foremost, in abnormalities in cell cycle regulation, causing cells to divide and grow uncontrollably. Mutations can also interfere with the immune system, making it difficult for immune cells to recognize cancer cells they way they would a foreign invader such as a bacteria or virus. It thus becomes very difficult to rid the body of cancer cells without damaging normal cells, which is why traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation are so hard on the patient. To get around this conundrum, cancer researchers have had to devise a new set of tactics.  The result is the promising field of cancer immunotherapy, a medical discipline designed to circumvent cancer cell-induced immune suppression by provoking an enhanced anti-tumor response.

Stem Cells May Aid ALS Treatment

New research shows the potential regenerative power of hematopoietic stem cells in ALS and may be a feasible treatment approach in the future.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a neurological disease characterized by the progressive destruction of motor neurons, leading to disability and later death. There is no cure for the disease, and the only FDA-approved treatment (riluzole) adds only an additional few months of life to patients with ALS. Many factors are associated with the development of ALS, yet the exact causes of ALS development remain poorly understood.

T Cells Can Help Reduce Inflammation in Autoimmune Conditions

New research shows bystander cell accumulation may play an active role in countering autoimmune diseases and curbing inflammation.

Autoimmune diseases are those in which the immune system attacks the body’s own cells leading to inflammation and damage of organs and tissues. Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is an example of an autoimmune disease caused by destruction of insulin-producing pancreatic cells (islet beta cells) by the immune system. Cytotoxic T cells that recognize islet beta cell antigens are the main immune cells responsible for the changes seen in T1D, but cytotoxic T cells that do not recognize these antigens are also found to infiltrate the pancreatic tissue. These cells have been designated bystander cells and have been thought to passively contribute to autoimmune-related tissue damage.

Research Advances in Stem Cell Therapy for Rheumatic Diseases

There is promising research that shows adult stem cells may advance the treatment of rheumatic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. 

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that can develop into any type of specialized cell, and are broadly divided into embryonic and adult stems cells. A current and well known application of stem cells includes the use of hematopoietic stem cells for bone marrow cancers. Stems cells are studied for their utility in treating a variety of diseases, particularly to treat organ damage and conditions involving a dysfunctional immune system. 

Prevent Recurring Tumors with Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is becoming a promising treatment approach for cancer patients with recurring tumors, and more studies will help to further develop the treatment options.

Surgical resection is still the first-line treatment for solid tumors despite the rate of tumor recurrence with this approach. Surgery to remove tumors provokes wound healing processes that promote local immunosuppressive environments and metastasis. Surgical resection of tumors can also remove beneficial immune cells and factors that could promote targeting and killing of tumor cells. Radio- or chemotherapy as an adjunct to surgery has some limited effects on distant metastasis, but these treatments are associated with significant systemic adverse effects.