IOZK - Immunologisch Onkologisches Zentrum Köln
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DCs and NDV – an effective combination in the fight against cancer

The patients dendritic cells play a key role in the immune response against cancer. Thanks to modern cell culture technology they can now be cultivated in the laboratory from a simple blood sample. To achieve this, a subgroup of white blood cells called monocytes are isolated from the patient's blood. Dendritic cells can be differentiated through a complex process of stimulating various intracellular messengers and growth factors within five to seven days. 

DCs: dendritic cells as messengers in the body

Their cultivation is very time and resource consuming. The production follows the regulations outlined in the Medicines act for advanced therapy medicinal products. This requires a specialised laboratory of the highest quality standards with extensive equipment and each vaccine is individually prepared for a patient. This method is therefore associated with high costs.

The transfer of information from the dendritic cells to the lymphocytes happens inside the patient's body. To do this, the laboratory cultivated and loaded with the information cells are re-injected into the patient. They travel through the lymphatic system and pass on the information to the lymphocytes. These are activated by the contact and in turn fight the degenerated cells throughout the body.

When tumour cells manage to survive in the body for an extended period of time they are tolerated by the immune system as the body's own, even though as degenerated cells they are a threat to the organism. T-lymphocytes (belonging to the white blood cells) whose task it is to destroy degenerated or virus-infected cells, no longer attack the structures which are now regarded as the body's own. This tolerance to autoimmune diseases that the body is supposed to protect against, is in the case of tumour cells paradoxical and detrimental to the organism.

NDV: an oncolytic virus assisting in cancer therapy

A sophisticated method allows the tolerance of cancer cells to be overcome. There are viruses that only infect the tumour cells whilst leaving healthy cells undamaged. One of these viruses is the Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV). It is pathogenic for poultry, but harmless for humans and does not lead to any adverse health effects.

The IOZK fulfils the requirements for working with viruses, in our case NDV. The tumour material taken from the patient is infected with the virus, lysed and then used to load the dendritic cells. The IOZK’s daughter company, Delta-Vir GmbH, has been tasked with the production of NDV according to the regulations set out in the European Pharmacopoeia for therapeutic use in humans. Thus the IOZK uses the world-wide first NDV produced according to the Medicines Act for advanced therapy medicinal products and GMP standards. 

The goal: breaking the immune tolerance

Once the virus has entered the tumour cells, they are altered. Post infection “danger signals” are sent out so that they are recognised by the immune system. The immune system can now differentiate these infected tumour cells from healthy cells. This way the immunological tolerance against the tumour cells is increased. The infection helps the immune system to distinguish cancer cells from the bodies healthy cells and in turn fight against them.

The results of clinical studies show that immunotherapies can be combined with standard therapies. In addition, our autologous tumour vaccination shows no known side-effects.