Targeting cell fusion as possible way to repair organs, deliver cancer vaccines

of cancer -- can be killed. "Our biofusion research brings a new level of control to the system so the right fusion matches are made to serve therapeutic ends," says Dr. Russell. "It offers a biotechnology platform that provides a way to choose and direct the agents of fusion by getting tumor cells to fuse with dendritic cells -- one cell type in the immune system. The result is biofusion that prompts the immune system to attack the tumor.

"This is important because the exploitation of cell fusion, whether for killing cancer cells, repairing damaged tissues or stimulating the immune system, depends on making sure that it is accurately targeted," he says.

Potential Applications

The ability to fuse tumor cells to treat cancers is one application the Mayo Clinic cancer research team envisions for their biofusion platform.

Another possible application involves cancer vaccines that prevent cancer from progressing or developing. Current vaccine approaches involve taking dendritic cells from cancer patients, feeding the dendritic cells tumor antigens, and then reintroducing the dendritic cells into the patient's body and relying on the body's natural process of "instruction" to help the body create cells that attack cancer. In this natural system, dendritic cells present antigens to other immune cells in a way that effectively "teaches" them what they are to attack.

Dr. Russell believes the biofusion technology would be a better way of "feeding" the dendritic cells the information they need to "learn" what they are to attack.

"Biofusion would involve putting genes in the dendritic cells inside the body that will cause them to fuse directly into tumors at multiple sites in the patient," he says. He notes that Mayo Clinic cancer research colleague Richard Vile, Ph.D., last year successfully fused tumor and dendritic cells to create a hybrid of the two -- but it was not targeted. "So this is not blue-sky stuf

Contact: Mary Lawson
Mayo Clinic

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