Novartis and Harvard Are Teaming up to Develop New Immunotherapy Technology

According to a story from biopharmadive.com, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis has entered a partnership with researchers from the engineering and applied sciences school at Harvard University. The team will also work with Dana-Farber Institute and the Wyss Institute in order to continue the development of more advanced immunotherapy technologies to fight cancer.

The new immunotherapy system could ultimately have applications in treating a variety of different types of rare cancer. The new technology has the potential to offer several advantages over currently available immunotherapy treatments. One of these advantages is that the new system could help promote immune system memory, and the biomaterial transport could allow for a more efficient immune response. The carrier delivery systems, which can either be injected or implanted under the patient’s skin, are also completely biodegradable.

In the new technology, this biodegradable material is inundated with inactive immune cells that are extracted from the tumor cells of the patient. In conventional immune therapy methods, these cells are then altered and reintroduced to the patient’s body in order to attack the cancer, but in this case, molecules that stimulate the immune system are separately incorporated into the delivery material. It is only once the cells have re-entered the body that are ready to fight cancer. In a sense, the new tech will function similarly to a cancer vaccine in that it will prime the body’s immune system to attack the tumor. This classes the new delivery system as an ‘active’ immunotherapy because it attempts to stimulate the immune system to address the threat as opposed to supplementing the immune system with antibodies.
At this juncture, the new technology is still in its infancy and still has a substantial development path ahead. However, preclinical trials indicated that it could be viable for treating multiple types of rare cancer and it was also able to prevent cancer relapse in some animal models. The system is currently being actively tested in a trial alongside autologous tumor vaccine against mantle cell lymphoma, a rare type of blood cancer that currently has no universal standard of treatment for caregivers to follow. This cancer affects roughly 15,000 people in the United States.

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