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Researchers seeking alternative
to surgery for brain cancers
Life Sciences Editor
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
With a four-year, $450,000 grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation,
scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are working
to develop an immunotherapy that would be a safe alternative to surgery
for brain cancers.
Current treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy often provide
only marginal survival benefits and sometimes leave patients, especially
children, with losses of cognitive functions, said lead investigator
David M. Kranz, a professor of biochemistry.
Kranz’s team will use a bioengineering method called yeast display
– created by Kranz and former U. of I. chemical engineer K. Dane
Wittrup – to remove and rebuild T-cell receptors for strong binding
to tumor cells. Reintroduction into the body would alter T cells so
they would bind only to a tumor and destroy it. The approach would solve
a tolerance problem in which the binding capacity of natural T cells
to tumors is weakened or absent.
Using his flow-cytometry-driven technique, Kranz’s lab to date
has created T-cell receptors with 1,000-fold stronger binding capacity
than natural ones. These engineered receptors could some day be useful
in the treatment of brain and other types of cancer.
The approach first will be tested in mice to see if altered T cells
indeed eradicate tumors and to determine optimum binding properties.
Development and testing of improved T-cell receptors against various
human brain-cancer cell lines would follow. The goal is a therapy with
minimal side effects.
Kranz’s team includes co-principal investigator Edward J. Roy,
professor of pathology in the U. of I. College
of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign, and Timothy M. Fan, professor of
veterinary clinical medicine in the College
of Veterinary Medicine.
The grant began Aug. 1 and is from the foundation’s initiative
in brain cancer research.