07.11.2018 change 07.11.2018

Scientists from the University of Lodz are working on antitumour immunotherapy

Scientists from the University of Lodz are working on the possibility of using immunotherapy based on vaccines containing DNA and nanoparticles to fight cancer. They are cooperating with experts from Latvia, Ukraine and Sweden.

"In mice in vivo, we have confirmed that selected nanoparticles - by complexing DNA - can be used in immunotherapy, which is a promising, innovative, non-invasive and non-toxic method of fighting cancer" - says Prof. Maria Bryszewska, head of Department of General Biophysics, Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection, University of Lodz.

The project "Twinning on DNA-based cancer vaccines" (VACTRAIN) is being carried out by an international consortium of researchers from four European countries. It is financed with an EC grant under the Horizon 2020 programme (Twinning program).

The project coordinator is the Rīga Stradiņš University in Latvia, and the remaining consortium members are: the University of Lodz, Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the R.E. Kavetsky Institute in Kiev.

The main objective of the VACTRAIN project is to strengthen scientific research in the field of biomedicine and medical technologies at the Rīga Stradiņš University by joining forces with two world-leading research centres: the University of Lodz and the Karolinska Institute. Another goal is to involve a partner from a country associated with the EU - in this case, the Ukrainian R.E. Kavetsky Institute in Kiev, as part of integration in the common space of European research.

The scientific goal of the project is to investigate the possibility of using immunotherapy based on vaccines containing DNA and nanoparticles to fight cancer.

Cancer immunotherapy is a treatment strategy based on the activation of the immune system. Its advantage is low invasiveness and low harmfulness to the patient. Using nanoparticles as DNA carriers allows for precise targeting of the therapeutic agent to the tumour centre, preventing the neighbouring healthy cells and tissues from being damaged.

Researchers emphasize that recombinant DNA is one of the types of antigens used in vaccines. Because of the negative charge they easily form "pairs" with positively charged nanoparticles.

The Department of General Biophysics, University of Lodz, has been dealing with the broadly understood issues of testing the biological properties and applications of nanoparticles for over a dozen years. Researchers from Łódź use dendrimers - polymers that have a structure reminiscent of a tree crown, whose "branches" and spaces between them are numerous potential places of attachment of drugs, genes, dyes, etc.

According to the researchers, the use of dendrimers gives the possibility of transferring a large dose of a drug at once, or transferring different substances simultaneously.

Researchers emphasise that in vitro studies, consisting in the characterization of physicochemical and biological properties of DNA complexes with dendrimers, have allowed to identify the best candidates for DNA carriers to cancer cells.

In turn, in vivo studies on mice confirmed that selected nanoparticles - by transferring DNA - can be used in immunotherapy, which is a non-invasive and non-toxic method of fighting cancer.

Researchers note that the road to using this form of therapy in patients is still a long one. Every potential drug has to pass a series of tests and preclinical and clinical trials that often take years. "However, the stage at which we are now is necessary, and, importantly, our results are promising" - says Prof. Maria Bryszewska.

As part of the VACTRAIN project, teams from Poland and Sweden train researchers from Latvia and Ukraine in the field of anti-cancer immunotherapeutics research. (PAP)

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