Susan Thomas explores potential for directing cancer immunotherapy drugs to lymph nodes to improve treatment efficacy at lower doses and reduce side effects.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown great promise against multiple types of cancer, but they are still not sufficiently effective to help many patients.
In a study published in Science Translational Medicine this week titled “Blockade of immune checkpoints in lymph nodes through locoregional delivery augments cancer immunotherapy,” Susan N. Thomas, Woodruff Associate Professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, discusses the potential for directing these cancer immunotherapy drugs to lymph nodes to improve treatment efficacy at lower doses and reduce side effects.
“Immunotherapy has transformed medical oncology. The opportunities for engineers to impact this field are expansive and continue to grow every day. We were delighted to contribute to the understanding of how immune checkpoint inhibitor drugs can be more effectively used in order to someday soon improve the lives of cancer patients,” said Thomas.
These findings offer new insights into the mechanisms of these immunotherapy drugs, which have been used to treat cancer patients including Georgia’s very own Jimmy Carter and for which the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded in 2018. The study also provides rationale for innovations in drug delivery technologies to be developed for and applied to cancer immunotherapy to improve cancer patient outcomes.
“We continue to innovate drug delivery technologies that will improve cancer patient outcomes,” said Thomas. “This work forms the foundation for some of those technologies to build upon.”
Thomas has co-founded a company focused on innovations in cancer immunotherapy related to this study and other collaborative work with study co-author Edmund K. Waller, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.P., a professor in the Departments of Medicine, Pathology, and Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine. Together they also serve as two of the three co-directors of the Center for Regenerative Engineering and Medicine at Emory University, Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the Department of Defense.