In 2018, the Nobel prize was awarded to scientists for their discovery of the programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor on T-cells, leading to the development of second-generation checkpoint inhibitors for the treatment of a wide variety of advanced cancers. In 2017, the US FDA approved Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) cell therapies for treating leukemia. In 2020, the Nobel prize was awarded to scientists for their discovery of gene editing, CRISPR, techniques. These events earmarked the arrival of the next-wave of gene-based biomedical revolution. Consequently, we were asked to guest edit this special issue to reveal the recent advances in cancer immunotherapies.
Instead of using irradiation and chemotherapeutic drugs, such as doxorubicin, to treat cancers, immunotherapy uses the patient’s immune system to target and eliminate cancer cells. Several different approaches to immunotherapy have been taken, including the use of vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and cell-based techniques. Cancer vaccines are designed to activate immune cells against antigens that are unique to cancer cells. The development of monoclonal checkpoint inhibitors, such as anti-PD-1 therapies, prevent the inhibitory signals released by cancer cells and enable the activation of the patient’s T cells against the tumor. More recently, these drugs have been studied in combination with other anti-cancer therapies to improve their efficacy.
Cell-based techniques such as adoptive cell therapy (ACT) work by isolating and expanding a population of a patient’s own T cells with high anti-tumor activity. These cells are then administered back to the patient to target their tumor with high specificity. Advancements in cell engineering, such as CRISPR, have enabled the generation of the CAR T cells with modified surface receptors that target and eliminate tumor cells. Unfortunately, the current clinical studies show that it is only effective for blood tumors but not solid tumors due to limited tumor infiltration. Furthermore, CAR T cells may be suppressed by the surrounding tumor microenvironment.
In this special issue we are seeking original and review papers to introduce state-of-the-art developments for the enhancement of cancer immunotherapies. We welcome papers from a broad range of disciplines, including clinical, basic science, and engineering fields. Through these collaborations we hope to further the current knowledge of the interactions between the immune system and cancer and inspire further research into the development of more effective and relevant immunotherapies for cancer patients.
Potential topics for this Special Issue include, but are not limited to:
- Immunotherapies and personalized cancer treatment
- Advances in checkpoint inhibitor therapies
- Role of the tumor microenvironment in immunotherapy
- Utilization of sequencing platforms to enhance immunotherapy
- Gene-editing techniques for improvement of CAR T Cell Therapies
- Jie Chen, Ph.D., Professor, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta
- Lacey Haddon, Ph.D., Info Systems Analyst, University of Alberta, Research Scientist, Hepion Pharmaceuticals Inc
- Manuscript submission deadline: June 5, 2023
- First decision: Nov. 30, 2022