Scientists have come up with an altered enzyme Akt1 which can boost the effect of tumor vaccines by extending the lives of dendritic cells, the immune-system master switches that promote the response of T-cells, which attack tumors.
“By keeping the dendritic cells alive longer, you extend the window of activation, promoting the desirable immune response, which in the case of cancer, is the expansion of T-cells,” said Dr. David Spencer, associate professor of immunology at BCM. “The longer your dendritic cells are alive and active, the more likely you are to expand the appropriate T-helper repertoire and ultimately the desirable cytotoxic (cell killing) T-lymphocytes.”
In contrast to the Akt1 enzyme naturally present in the body, the more potent version of Akt1 targets a particular domain on the plasma membrane of the cell where signaling occurred, making the action of Akt1 more specific.
Preliminary laboratory trials yielded promising results and the researchers expects that the enzyme will be first tried to treat prostate cancer, although they say it may also modified to attack other tumors as well.
The study has been published online in Nature Biotech (abstract available, full text access requires subscription).