Accurate diagnosis is crucial for the success of cancer treatment. However, the progress of the treatment needs to be closely followed as well. Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that a fluorescent probe can be used to track how tumours are responding to immunotherapy drugs. This could lead to more effective treatments and accurate and timely adjustments to medicine.
Immunotherapy is one of the most promising treatments of cancer. It basically teaches the body's immune system to attack the tumour. It is believed that immunotherapy could be one of the main treatments for many different types of cancer, right next to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, it is important to see how effective the treatment is. Noticing that it is not working early could lead to timely adjustments to dosage or the type of drugs used.
Scientists found that a fluorescent probe can track how tumours are responding to the drugs. This technology allows imaging T-cells attacking cancer cells. T-cells are basically the immune system’s killer cells, which generate a toxic protein known as granzyme B, which is lethal for cancer cells. Scientists employed this feature of T-cells to develop the fluorescent probe.
Scientists created this marker in such a way that granzyme B would chop it in half. When that happens, a fluorescent light signal is released. Scientists are able to detect and track it. The intensity of these fluorescent light signals tells researchers how well the immune system is fighting against cancer cells. Basically, if T-cell is able to chop the probe in half, it is geared towards killing the cancer.
Professor Marc Vendrell, one of the authors of the study, said: “This is an important advance in our abilities to study the role that T cells play in tumours. We hope this technology will accelerate the design of personalised therapies for cancer patients and make them more effective against all tumours.”
Scientists believe that an improved fluorescent probe could detect even minute changes, which would allow assessing the effectiveness of anti-cancer treatments. The effectiveness of the treatment could be determined very quickly. This would allow doctors to stop ineffective therapies that cause nothing but adverse side effects or adjusting the treatment to make it more effective.
Immunotherapy is a promising cancer treatment direction, but it is not always effective. It can have adverse side effects, it can simply not work. Understanding when it works is crucial for the treatment outcomes and tools like the fluorescent probe could make immunotherapy more accurate and adjustable in the future.
Source: University of Edinburgh