Roundtable on dendritic cell therapy for cancer treatment
22 Oct 2010
Swiss non-profit organisation Reliable Cancer Therapies organized a roundtable conference in Brussels last month for experts in the field of dendritic cell therapy for oncology.
The goal of the round table was to obtain a status about dendritic cell therapy in cancer treatment to be able to provide accurate information about this therapeutic option that is currently offered to patients in quite diverse settings: from clinical trials in academic centres to treatment in questionable centres.
Dendritic cell therapy is based on the isolation of the patient’s own white blood cells which are processed in the laboratory and subsequently re-administered to the patient in order to obtain a stronger immune response.
In general, all experts state that dendritic cell therapy is a safe approach, without major side effects. Sometimes slight auto-immune effects can be noted, but these auto-immune effects are believed to be an indication for the therapeutic efficacy.
In the reported results, it was demonstrated that often dendritic cell therapy can prolong patient life and sometimes complete “cures” were claimed. Therefore, it is needed to further examine the parameters that influence the outcome in these “cured” patients to improve the dendritic cell therapy and identify the type of patients that will most probably benefit from this therapy.
Several improvements can still be made to enhance the effectiveness of dendritic cell therapy: determine the appropriate timing and frequency of injections; best target population; maximize dendritic cell potential.
In general, all the experts believed that dendritic cells should best be combined with other treatment modalities, be it immunologic, targeted or conventional approaches. Many rationales exist to combine dendritic cell therapy with chemotherapy, which could then be given at lower dose, because chemotherapy could increase the susceptibility of the tumour to cell death by immune attack.
Therefore, wherever possible, the experts advise to combine dendritic cell therapy with the standard-of-care therapy for each type of cancer. Unfortunately, the clinical development of autologous cell therapy, involving multiple clinical trials to select the optimal combinations and protocols is hampered by lack of interest from the pharmaceutical industry.
In conclusion, dendritic cell therapy has potential but is still in its infancy and needs proper financial support for best possible clinical development.