Collaboration, synergy and new approaches in cancer immunotherapy

Manlio Fusciello | Huhti 2020 | Onkologia ja Hematologia |

Manlio Fusciello
M.Sc., PhD student
Laboratory of Immunovirotherapy
Division of Pharmaceutical Biosciences
& Drug Research Program,
Faculty of Pharmacy,
University of Helsinki

Flavia Fontana
Postdoctoral fellow
Drug Research Program,
Division of Pharmaceutical
Chemistry and Technology,
Faculty of Pharmacy,
University of Helsinki

Vincenzo Cerullo
PhD, Professor of Biological Drug Development
Drug Research Program Helsinki (DRP),
Faculty of Pharmacy,
University of Helsinki
Translational Immunology Program (TRIMM),
Faculty of Medicine,
University of Helsinki

Hélder A. Santos
Professor
Drug Research Program,
Division of Pharmaceutical
Chemistry and Technology,
Faculty of Pharmacy,
University of Helsinki

At the University of Helsinki, researchers have developed a potential cancer vaccine platform by merging the expertise of two different areas: viruses and nanoparticles. Covering a virus with tumour membrane to reprogram the immune system seemed crazy at first, but when it comes to science, sharing ideas and determination are key to reaching a greater aim - and so it was. Researchers at the University of Helsinki merged two different expertise areas and gave birth to an innovative platform, ExtraCRAd (Figure 1), as a potential treatment for cancer. The new technology developed by IVT lab, led by professor Vincenzo Cerullo, and Santos’ Lab, led by associate professor Hélder Santos, was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.1 The two research teams combined their own expertise about viruses and nanoparticles to create a brand-new anti-cancer platform. The idea started during a thesis committee meeting in which Vincenzo Cerullo, professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy of Helsinki University, was listening to PhD candidate Flavia Fontana describing her last study about biohybrid nanoparticles wrapped in different cell membrane components. Santos’ Lab was coating adjuvant nanoparticles made of porous silicon and acetalated dextran with cancer cell-derived membranes to create nanovaccines against flags present on the membrane of the cell as shown in Figure 2.2 Nanoparticles are excellent synthetic adjuvants, with better profiles under synthesis efficacy and safety than some of the currently used vaccine adjuvants. The spark of the idea just appeared when Vincenzo asked what if, instead of coating nanoparticles, we could have wrapped viruses? This is when Manlio Fusciello and Flavia Fontana, two PhD students working in the IVT lab and Santos’, Lab, respectively, started their collaboration. “I have never thought about a virus as a nanoparticle”, said Manlio when he got involved in the projects and “working together with Flavia was...