Novel Immunotherapy for Ovarian Cancer
Dartmouth investigators and their colleagues at the University of Kansas have discovered a novel method for rescuing cytotoxic T lymphocytes from destruction by ovarian carcinoma cells in vitro using an animal model system.
Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than all other gynecologic cancers combined. Approximately 19,000 new cases of ovarian cancer are reported and 12,000 deaths occur annually. Ninety percent of ovarian cancers are ovarian carcinoma, i.e. epithelial cell-derived. Ovarian carcinoma is difficult to diagnose, and as a result, about two thirds of patients have advanced disease upon diagnosis. Once disease is advanced, it is frequently resistant to treatment, making this the most lethal of gynecologic cancers. T cells, cytotoxic T lymphocytes or CTL in particular, are recognized as being critically important for mediating effective anti-tumor responses. Tumor-infiltrating T lymphocytes are usually numerous at the tumor site in ovarian cancer patients, but the tumor environment appears to be toxic to these T cells, rendering them ineffective against the tumor cells.
Dartmouth scientists and their colleagues have used an effective animal model system for ovarian carcinoma to determine that normal splenic CTL co-cultured with tumor cells in vitro are inhibited and eventually killed by the tumor cells. In the presence of discovered treatment, however, these CTL are not only rescued from destruction but their ability to kill target cells is maintained. This finding is related to maternal anti-fetal tolerance mechanisms that allow for reproduction, and appear to be inappropriately used by the tumor cell to escape immune surveillance. These studies represent a novel line of investigation to identify effective therapies for patients with ovarian cancer.
Further study is required to test for the ability of said treatment to prevent disease and to reverse established disease in the ovarian carcinoma animal model, i.e. to establish proof of principal in vivo. These animal studies are prerequisite to human clinical trials using the discovered treatment in patients with ovarian carcinoma.
These findings are claimed in the published Patent Corporation Treaty Application No. PCT/US2004/001382. We are seeking an industrial partner who is interested in further refinement and eventual commercialization of this therapy. (Ref: J220)
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