Development of synthetic immunofilaments
in order to activate immune cells
Immune cells of cancer patients are often affected by immunosuppressive mechanisms developed by the tumor. Therefore, cancer vaccines may function suboptimal, as the potency of antigen presenting cells is hampered. This prompted the Figdor lab to exploit its extensive background in tumor immunology and our knowledge of chemical-immunology at Radboudumc, to develop synthetic immunofilaments for the direct activation of immune cells.
Antigen-presenting cells, such as dendritic cells, form an intimate contact with T cells to transfer antigenic signals (1), co-stimulatory signals (2) and paracrine cytokine signals (3). In this so-called immunological synapse, a variety of immunomodulating molecules aggregate to drive signaling that leads to activation and proliferation of immune effector cells such as T cells and NK cells.
We developed unique semi-flexible polymers decorated with a variety of immunomodulating molecules to mimic natural antigen presenting cells. These ‘immunofilaments’ are designed to specifically activate and expand immune cells such as antigen specific cytotoxic T cells, CAR-T cells, or NK cells.
Our immunofilaments not only effectively expand immune cells ex vivo, but can also drive expansion of immune cells in vivo, resulting in inhibition of tumor growth or metastasis.
Schematic representation of the role of dendritic cells in T cell activation and cancer cell killing. Immunofilaments can replace dendritic cells and induce T cell-mediated cancer cell killing.