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Dendritic Cells in Precision Medicine

May 4, 2015 1:00:03 PM / by Daisy Goodrich

dendritic cellsResearchers explore a new, less expensive option for manufacturing dendritic cells as cancer vaccines. HemaCare helped make it possible.

Precision medicine has become quite the catchphrase. In essence, it is an approach towards embracing medical therapy that is precise for the individual. One strategy relies on the patient’s genome. This entails pinpointing DNA mutations and proteins on patient biopsy samples using molecular diagnostics, as the same disease can have diverse causes in different patients. Such knowledge then leads to targeted therapy effective at the molecular level.

Dendritic cells are becoming one of the key players in precision medicine. Image credits:


Another strategy in precision medicine utilizes patient-specific tissue. In a leukemia clinical trial , patients were transfused with their own T cells engineered to fight their cancer. In a brain cancer clinical trial, patients were vaccinated with dendritic cells loaded with their own cancer antigens. The outcome in such immunotherapy studies has been phenomenal.

While precision medicine promises to improve the probability of finding effective therapies by taking individual variability into consideration, this approach to disease management demands an expansion of available therapies. Scientific literature does show ample signs of progress. Take a recent publication on dendritic cells, for example.

Although dendritic cells have been explored in cancer vaccines, there is much to be learned. A team of scientists from Duke University Medical Center and Medinet Medical Institute came together to expand on dendritic cells for patient use. HemaCare provided peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) for culturing dendritic cells in all experiments.[1]

This team asked if there was an alternative to using protein antigens for loading dendritic cells in cancer vaccines. They reasoned that for large scale patient use, it may be less expensive to produce clinical grade RNA from patient tumors rather than manufacturing clinical grade tumor-specific peptides. In the long run, such details could make a difference in whether it is feasible to adopt this therapy to treat a nation.

In their studies, naked RNA molecules were successfully electroporated into dendritic cells, where they got translated into proteins and further processed into antigens. The RNA-derived protein antigens obtained in this manner were effective in mounting an immune response that engaged T cells in lab assays.

To demonstrate this concept in mouse models, the researchers transplanted cancer cells under the animals' skin. It was established that unvaccinated mice and mice vaccinated with empty dendritic cells had aggressive tumor growths, whereas mice vaccinated with dendritic cells loaded with RNA or peptides had low growth rates. Therefore, dendritic cells loaded with tumor-derived RNA are just as effective as those loaded with tumor-derived peptides.

At HemaCare, we are proud to be contributing towards precision medicine through providing quality research grade PBMC.


1: Osada T, Nagaoka K, Takahara M, Yang XY, Liu CX, Guo H, Roy Choudhury K, Hobeika A, Hartman Z, Morse MA, Lyerly HK. Precision Cancer Immunotherapy: Optimizing Dendritic Cell-based Strategies to Induce Tumor Antigen-specific T-cell Responses Against Individual Patient Tumors. J Immunother. 2015 May;38(4):155-64.

Topics: Independent validation, manufacturing, Vaccine Research, Immunotherapy (Immunology)

Daisy Goodrich

Written by Daisy Goodrich

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