DCC Funds at Work: Researchers Combine Immunotherapy and Radiation to Improve Cancer Outcomes
By using radiation therapy to boost the body’s immune system, researchers at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine are exploring a promising new approach to fighting this disease. Supported by funding from the Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC), radiation oncologist Adrian Ishkanian, M.D., M.Sc., and his laboratory team are studying the use of radiation to find hidden cancer cells that can then be attacked by the immune system in the hope of substantially improving patient survival.
“Participants in the DCC play an important role in supporting our collaborative groundbreaking research,” said Ishkanian, who plans to walk in the February 20, 2016, fundraising event at Sun Life Stadium with his wife Fazilat Ishkanian, M.D., who is also a radiation oncologist at Sylvester. “We have gotten tremendous support from Sylvester patients and families as we pursue our studies.”
For the past two years, Ishkanian has been working with Eli Gilboa, Ph.D., co-leader of Sylvester’s Tumor Immunology Program and Dodson Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, to develop a combination immuno-radiation strategy for fighting cancer. The Sylvester researchers are developing novel DNA/RNA-based agents called aptamers that can enhance the body’s anti-tumor immune response when used in combination with radiation.
“Radiation therapy is highly effective in treating many types of cancer, using high-energy particles or waves to destroy or damage malignant cells,” Ishkanian said. “However, cancer can recur because of cells that hide from the treatment beam. Targeting cancer cells with radiation makes it more difficult for these cells to hide.”
Ishkanian says this combination therapy promises to be less toxic, faster and potentially more effective than existing treatment options. “Our goal is to reach the first phase of clinical trials, in the hope of improving outcomes for all cancer patients,” he adds. “We invite you to support our work and DCC with me!”