A new drug cocktail could help fight the toughest cancers

Daniel Cooper
·Senior Editor
·1 min read

We may be closer to dealing with tough-to-beat forms of cancer thanks to work coming out of Harvard’s Wyss Institute. Researchers believe that, by mixing chemotherapy and immunotherapy, they’ve found a way to attack Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. The team also believe that their work may eventually be able to create a cheaper, and more efficient form of cancer vaccine currently available.

Chemotherapy is essentially poison injected into the body which kills off cancer cells, but with enormous collateral damage to the tissue around it. Immunotherapy, meanwhile, tries to juice the patient’s existing immune response to get it to target the cancerous cells. But cancers like Triple-Negative trigger immune-suppressant responses in the area around their tumors, making both treatments less effective.

In response, Wyss’ researchers took a best-of-both-worlds approach, mixing chemo-and-immunotherapy drugs together. On top of that, they added synthetic DNA strands that improve immune response further and, crucially, strands that prevent cancer cells from hiding from treatment. The approach kills a bunch of cancer cells, and then directs immune response to attack them ,and anything that looks like it, nearby.

On laboratory tests in mice which had Triple-Negative, researchers found that the cocktail improved immune response by around eight percent. More importantly, they claim that all of the mice who were infected, treated and re-infected were able to survive without relapsing. It’s still very, very early days, but it’s possible that this general-purpose approach could make an effective cancer vaccine.