• Otávio Santiago

Immunotherapy Gets Boost from Listeria Delivered Tetanus Toxoid, Shrinks Pancreatic Tumors in MiceM


Pancreatic cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat. Patients with pancreatic tumors have dismal survival rates, as most cases aren’t diagnosed until the tumor has already metastasized and spread to other organs. And, most pancreatic tumors fail to respond to modern chemotherapies and immunotherapies, partly because the tumor lacks mutations and molecular targets that immune cells can recognize. Now, scientists have created an immunotherapy that can shrink hard-to-treat pancreatic cancer tumors in mice by exploiting pre-existing immunity conferred by tetanus vaccines and rendering pancreatic tumors vulnerable to the immune system.


The new strategy makes pancreatic tumors visible to the immune systems of mice and vulnerable to immune attack, reducing cancer metastases by 87%. The unique approach leverages a microbial delivery system to sensitize pancreatic cancer cells to anti-tetanus immune cells, which can persist for years after vaccination.

The paper describing the findings is published in Science Translational Medicine in the paper, “Listeria delivers tetanus toxoid protein to pancreatic tumors and induces cancer cell death in mice.


“Today’s checkpoint inhibitor drugs work well against some types of cancer but only rarely help people with pancreatic cancer,” said Claudia Gravekamp, PhD, associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Albert Einstein School of Medicine. “The problem is that pancreatic tumors aren’t sufficiently ‘foreign’ to attract the immune system’s attention and can usually suppress whatever immune responses do occur. Essentially, our new therapy makes immunologically ‘cold’ tumors hot enough for the immune system to attack and destroy them.”

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