新型自然杀伤细胞技术有望彻底阻断癌症

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我们的机体中含有自然杀伤细胞(NK细胞),NK细胞能够帮助我们有效阻断癌症和病毒的入侵,最近来自美国中佛罗里达大学医学院的研究人员开发了一种新型的纳米颗粒,在实验室研究中其能够使得NK细胞的数量增加1万倍,目前这项新技术已经获批,未来或有望进行临床试验。

研究者Alicja Copik表示,当我们观察到NK细胞在“撕裂”肿瘤时我们才会意识到机体的免疫系统是如此强大,这些NK细胞是保护机体的强大军队,其能够有效抵御来自机体外部的异物,比如病原体或肿瘤等。20世纪90年代,当科学家们鉴别并且培养出NK细胞时他们对NK细胞的功能一无所知,从那时候开始,科学家们就大量开发基于NK细胞的疗法来用于多种癌症的治疗;当然此前研究中研究者也试图利用其它类型的细胞(甚至肿瘤细胞)来促进NK细胞生长,但目前困难重重,比如临床试验中其会对患者带来严重的副作用。

这项最新技术利用了纳米颗粒来向NK细胞发送信号使其不断产生,从而抵御癌症,在研究者Copik的实验室中,她们利用来自患者机体中的一个NK细胞,在纳米颗粒的帮助下两周内就能够产生10000个新的NK细胞,这项突破性研究发现解决了目前基于NK细胞疗法开发的瓶颈问题,如果在临床试验中该技术是安全且有效的,那么其或许就能够为很多医院提供新型的细胞疗法,比如进行骨髓抑制为癌症患者提供大量的NK细胞。

这项疗法目前能够有效治疗急性髓性白血病,急性髓性白血病是一种包括骨髓在内的血液形成组织发生的癌症,在后期研究中研究者或将开发出携带信号的纳米颗粒来应对特殊的癌症或病毒,比如HIV和埃博拉病毒等。目前研究者Copik的NK细胞研究获得了两项40万美元的资助,她希望未来能够进行更为深入的研究早日利用安全可靠的新型NK细胞技术来帮助治疗诸如癌症在内等多种疾病。

原文

Natural kill cell technology to stop cancer gets licensed

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University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine researcher Alicja Copik has created a nanoparticle that increases the number of these killers 10,000-fold in the lab and her new technology has generated a licensing agreement that is expected to accelerate the therapy’s path to clinical trials. Credit: UCF College of Medicine

Our bodies contain Natural Killer (NK) cells – an army that stops cancers and viruses before they can make us sick. A researcher from the University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine has created a nanoparticle that increases the number of these killers 10,000-fold in the lab and her new technology has generated a licensing agreement that is expected to accelerate the therapy’s path to clinical trials.

Cyto-Sen Therapeutics Inc., a Florida-based start-up company created by NK researchers and physicians including UCF researcher Alicja Copik and others at UCF, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, recently licensed the technology and plans to begin clinical trials by late 2017.

On a computer screen in her lab, Copik’s heightened killers literally eat cancer cells before your eyes. “You realize how powerful this system is when you see these cells actually tearing apart the tumors,” she said. “These Natural Killer cells are an army and they’re your friends. This potential therapy means you have more of these fighters and they are armed to the teeth.”

NK cells play an important first-line-of-defense in fighting all foreign cells in the body. Dr. Dean Lee, director of cellular therapy and cancer immunology at Nationwide, serves as medical director and vice president of Cyto-Sen. He said medicine had known very little about NK cells until researchers were able to identify and grow them in the late 1990s. Since then, more research is focusing on NK cell therapies for cancers including lymphoma, leukemia and even brain, ovarian and breast cancers. Previous studies attempted to use other types of cells, even tumor cells, to encourage NK cells to grow. But those therapies were commercially cumbersome and had serious side effects for patients in clinical trials.

UCF’s technology uses nanoparticles that signal the NK cells to reproduce and arm themselves to fight the cancer. In Copik’s lab, one NK cell taken from a patient and contacted by the nanoparticle yielded 10,000 new cells in two weeks. “UCF’s discovery has really solved a key problem that makes NK cell therapies more accessible to all,” Lee said. “We are very excited about the possibilities.” If the technology can be safely manufactured and is effective in clinical trials, it could allow any hospital that provides cell therapies such as bone marrow transplants to create their own advanced NK cells on-site for cancer patients, he said.

Phil McKee, chairman of Cyto-Sen, has a personal reason for supporting Copik’s work. The physicist/inventor needed chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to cure his blood cancer and wants to create more natural therapies that beat the disease – without severe side effects.

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“Dr. Copik’s delivery-expansion method appears to create an important bridge between our desire to use the body’s own cancer-fighting systems and medical science’s ability to make that happen in the lab,” he said. “With her system, we can take what the body naturally has and instead of a few soldiers, we can create a battalion.”

The therapy has shown effectiveness in treating acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of blood-forming tissues including bone marrow. Further study could develop nanoparticles with signals for specific cancers and viruses such as Ebola or HIV, Lee and Copik said.

Lee will lead the manufacturing effort at Nationwide’s cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) facility, which is required to meet the strict quality and safety standards set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for creating medical therapies for humans.

Copik’s NK cell research was supported by two $400,000 grants from the Florida Department of Health’s Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program. She said her love of science was inspired by her father, an engineer in her native Poland who created automated mechanical locks and door openings to improve safety for coal miners.

“My mother was always proudly showing me pictures of his inventions,” she said. “That’s where I got my curiosity, my passion for developing new things, asking questions and solving problems.”

She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry at Utah State University, did post-doctoral work at the University of Texas Medical Branch and Roche Pharmaceuticals, and worked at Florida Hospital before coming to UCF. The NK cell technology is a credit to a multidisciplinary team of researchers, immunologists, biochemists and physicians working with the College of Medicine to find better ways to help cancer patients, she said.

“So many people have worked together to get us to this point,” she said. “As a researcher you dedicate your life to science. To be able to see your idea go from your lab to actual clinical trials that can help patients is a dream come true.”