UW Research Team Moves Cancer Immunotherapy Another Step Ahead

Myriam N. Bouchlaka, PhD, and Christian Capitini, MD, are authors on a new study that provides a key step in monitoring if, and how, the body’s own cancer-killing components are working during immunotherapy.

So-called natural killer (NK) cell cancer therapy is the subject of several recent and current clinical trials, with some, but not all, patients’ tumors shrinking in response to the treatment.

In the study, published in the journal OncoImmunology, the research team combined NK cell immunotherapy with the labeling agent fluorine-19 in an attempt to monitor the cancer-killing cells in an animal model that could be safely translated to humans.

They showed that the labeling had no detrimental effects on the ability of those cells to kill cancer cells in the lab. They then injected labeled cells directly into mice harboring human cancers and, using a specialized MRI to detect fluorine-19, were able to detect the labeled cells for several days in those tumors.