Study Finds Eating Healthy Makes Your Vaccine More Effective

Study Finds Eating Healthy Makes Your Vaccine More Effective

  • January 21, 2021

With coronavirus vaccines being distributed nationwide, finally, we’re all breathing a collective, hopeful sigh of relief. There is light is at the end of the pandemic tunnel. So while we wait and look forward to our turn to roll up our sleeve, a new study just found that there is something real you can do to improve your chances of having the best results from getting vaccinated, and building the strongest antibodies when the vaccine enters your body.

A new study just published in Perspectives on Psychological Science titled “Psychological and Behavioral Predictors of Vaccine Efficacy: Considerations for COVID-19,” helps underscore the importance of eating a healthy diet, as it relates to the vaccine’s efficacy.

Healthy Eating Could Be Your Immune System’s Top Defense Against Virus

For their research, scientists at the Ohio State University (OSU) reviewed 49 vaccine studies in humans from the past 30 years that show how different conditions impact the body’s immune system. They discovered that stress, depression, and unhealthy lifestyle choices (smoking, eating junk food) can negatively affect the body’s immune response when exposed to vaccination. On the flip side, improving your health and making smart lifestyle decisions (eating a diet high in plant-based foods) can bolster our immune response to a vaccine.

“When we think of vaccine efficacy, we often think of the vaccine itself. My motivation was to draw attention to the fact that we [as subjects] bring important factors to the table as well — and those factors are modifiable,” says Annelise Madison, lead author of the paper, and a graduate student in clinical psychology at Ohio State, in a Science Daily statement.

“If we can address them now, when most of the world has yet to receive the vaccine, we have the chance to make our response to the vaccine quicker, more robust, and lasting,” she continues. In the study, the team at OSU noted that most people are not reacting to the pandemic stress with healthy habits, but are actually going the wrong direction, according to recent data that shows an increase in alcohol sales, more overeating (and higher sales of junk food), and a dip in daily physical activity, as recorded by those who wear Fitbits.

While the study does not suggest specific foods to eat to boost your immune response to the vaccine when it’s your turn to receive yours, it’s safe to say that junk foods, processed bags oof chips, boxes of crackers and cookies and, red meat that’s laden with saturated fat are not on the “healthier” diet list. So skip the cheeseburger and opt instead for a salad rich in plant-based foods and whole grains, of the quinoa and kale variety. The antioxidants and high-fiber content of a whole food plant-based approach will create a better host system to welcome the new antibodies into your immune arsenal.

Since what we eat and drink and how active we are impacts all aspects of our health and wellbeing, these are things that we can control (“modifiable,” as Madison calls them). We may not be able to choose how soon we get the vaccine, but until then, we are able to influence our body’s response when we get it.

A Plant-Based Diet Can Boost Immune Protections

While more research is needed to replicate these findings with regard to the new coronavirus vaccines, it’s well-known that a whole-food, plant-based diet can help protect and enhance immunity, to all viruses. Some doctors are urging people to go plant-based now, in light of coronavirus, and to improve their long-term health. From eating ‘shrooms to loading up on fiber, here are 11 tips to boost your immune system, and here are 15 immune-supportive foods to build your natural defenses and safeguard your health.

If “you are what you eat,” we’d like to be a rainbow-filled garden, metaphorically, with immune-bolstering superpowers, until the day we get that first inoculation. Our arms will be ready.

Study: Clinical, laboratory, and temporal predictors of neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor candidates. Image Credit: Cryptographer / Shutterstock

Study predicts good passive immunotherapy donors to combat COVID-19

  • January 19, 2021

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), continues to spread worldwide. Since the virus first emerged in late-2019, over 95.55 million cases and more than 2 million deaths have been reported.

Study: Clinical, laboratory, and temporal predictors of neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 among COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor candidates. Image Credit: Cryptographer / Shutterstock

Many countries have commenced targeted vaccination efforts to control the spread of the virus and immunize vulnerable groups. However, vaccine rollout may still lag behind ongoing infections, as fast-spreading new variants threaten many countries. Finding an effective therapy to help patients fight the infection remains crucial.

Passive immunotherapy treatment, wherein SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) from the plasma of recovered patients are administered to acutely sick patients, is a promising method for COVID-19 treatment in severe cases.

A team of researchers at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the National Institute of Health, USA, recently studied the neutralizing antibodies from patients recovering from COVID-19 to investigate which clinical factors predict good passive immunotherapy donors.

In the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, the research team measured SARS-CoV-2-nAb titers in the plasma of 250 people with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Convalescent plasma

In the USA, convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19 patients was approved under emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 23, 2020. This mode of therapy uses antibody-containing blood from recovered individuals to help promote passive immunity in severely ill patients still battling the infection.

Blood donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 is processed to remove blood cells, leaving behind the plasma and neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

The plasma given to severely ill patients will help boost the body’s immune system. In a recent phase II clinical trial in Argentina, scientists found that convalescent plasma with high levels of neutralizing antibodies, particularly when given early in the infection, had a marked beneficial health impact.

Yet, not all SARS-CoV-2-infected people produce a strong neutralizing antibody response. Hence, convalescent plasma from donors should be screened for SARS-CoV-2-neutralizing antibody activity to make sure the recovered patients are suitable donors.

The study

In the current study, the researchers tested the serum of 250 potential convalescent plasma donors with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein S1 domain, nucleoprotein (NP), and for neutralizing antibodies.

The team found that among the participants, 97 percent were seropositive on one or more assays. About 60 percent of the donors had nAb titers. The correlates of higher nAb titer included old age, male, and severity of the illness. Also, patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms, like the difficulty of breathing and fever, had higher levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Moreover, a longer period between the infection and antibody screening had decreased nAb titers. The study results showed that severe COVID-19 illness produces higher levels of antibodies than less severe illness. This also means that the neutralizing antibodies in the blood of recovered patients wane over time.

COVID-19 seems to be one of a group of infections where the sicker one is, and presumably the more virus and therefore the more antigen that is around, the higher the levels of antibody,” Dr. David Koelle of the Koelle Laboratory, University of Washington, said in a statement.

He explained that the potential cause of this discrepancy is that the immune system in people who had a severe illness, was not effective in stopping it. There is a probable temporal race between the proliferation of the virus and host adaptive immunity.

The researchers concluded that nAb titers correlated with disease severity, sex, and age. Also, they suggested that commercially available SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G (IgG) results can become an alternative for nAb testing.

Functional nAb levels were found to decline and a small proportion of persons recovered from COVID-19 lack adaptive immune responses,” they added.

Source:

Journal reference:

People's 'Microbiomes' Might Influence COVID-19 Severity: Study - Consumer Health News

People’s ‘Microbiomes’ Might Influence COVID-19 Severity: Study – Consumer Health News

  • January 13, 2021

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) — The bacteria in your gut may play a role in the severity of COVID-19 infection and the strength of your immune system response, a new study suggests.

Not only that, imbalances in the microbiome may cause continued inflammatory symptoms, often called “long-haul” COVID, the researchers added.

“Imbalance in the microbiome contributes to the severity of COVID-19, and if it persists after viral clearance, could contribute to persistent symptoms and multi-system inflammation syndromes like long COVID syndrome,” said lead researcher Dr. Siew Ng, a professor from the Institute of Digestive Disease at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

“Restoration of the missing beneficial bacteria might boost our immunity against SARS-CoV2 virus and hasten recovery from the disease,” she said. “Managing COVID-19 should not only aim at clearing the virus, but also restoring the gut microbiota.”

The study, however, can’t prove that imbalances in the microbiome cause COVID-19 to be more severe, only that there appears to be an association between the virus and bacteria in the gut, Ng said.

But evidence is growing that gut bacteria are linked to inflammatory diseases, she noted.

For the study, the researchers studied blood and stool samples from 100 patients with COVID-19 and from 78 people without the infection who were part of a microbiome study before the pandemic began.

They found that in 274 stool samples the gut microbiome differed significantly between patients with and without COVID-19, regardless if they had been given drugs, including antibiotics.

For example, those with COVID-19 had fewer types of bacteria that can affect the immune system response than those without the infection. The reduced number of these bacteria was linked to the severity of the infection.

Moreover, the number of these bacteria remained low up to 30 days after infected patients had cleared the virus, the researchers found.

COVID-19 triggers the immune system to make inflammatory cytokines, and in some cases, this response can be excessive, causing widespread tissue damage, septic shock and organ failure.

Analysis of the blood samples found that the microbial imbalance in the COVID-19 patients was linked with high levels of inflammatory cytokines and blood markers of tissue damage, such as C-reactive protein.

One U.S. expert not part of the study pointed out that one’s microbiome reacts to all kinds of conditions that may or may not be related to COVID-19.

“It’s pretty clear that stool biodiversity does change in response to many things, including age, diet, underlying autoimmune disease and antibiotic exposures,” said Dr. Arun Swaminath, chief of the division of gastroenterology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

The critical question is whether these changes are unique to COVID-19 or are commonly seen in sick patients who may have been hospitalized for non-COVID related illnesses, he said.

“Some of the early published data among populations with altered gut microbiomes, such as patients with inflammatory bowel disease who are infected with COVID-19, do not experience worse outcomes compared to the general population, so the idea of having altered gut microbiome at baseline doesn’t seem to imply worse inflammation from COVID-19,” Swaminath said.

“However, Ng’s work may help us identify those who haven’t recovered from COVID-19 infection using stool biodiversity testing,” he added.

The report was published online Jan. 11 in the journal Gut.

More information

Harvard University has more on the microbiome.

SOURCES: Siew Ng, MD, PhD, professor, Institute of Digestive Disease, Chinese University of Hong Kong; Arun Swaminath, MD, chief, division of gastroenterology, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Gut, Jan. 11, 2021, online

Children's immune response more effective against COVID-19 -- ScienceDaily

Boosting a natural cellular process could reduce damage, study suggests — ScienceDaily

  • January 12, 2021

An unfortunate truth about the use of mechanical ventilation to save the lives of patients in respiratory distress is that the pressure used to inflate the lungs is likely to cause further lung damage.

In a new study, scientists identified a molecule that is produced by immune cells during mechanical ventilation to try to decrease inflammation, but isn’t able to completely prevent ventilator-induced injury to the lungs.

The team is working on exploiting that natural process in pursuit of a therapy that could lower the chances for lung damage in patients on ventilators. Delivering high levels of the helpful molecule with a nanoparticle was effective at fending off ventilator-related lung damage in mice on mechanical ventilation.

“Our data suggest that the lungs know they’re not supposed to be overinflated in this way, and the immune system does its best to try to fix it, but unfortunately it’s not enough,” said Dr. Joshua A. Englert, assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and co-lead author of the study. “How can we exploit this response and take what nature has done and augment that? That led to the therapeutic aims in this study.”

The work builds upon findings from the lab of co-lead author Samir Ghadiali, professor and chair of biomedical engineering at Ohio State, who for years has studied how the physical force generated during mechanical ventilation activates inflammatory signaling and causes lung injury.

Efforts in other labs to engineer ventilation systems that could reduce harm to the lungs haven’t panned out, Ghadiali said.

“We haven’t found ways to ventilate patients in a clinical setting that completely eliminates the injurious mechanical forces,” he said. “The alternative is to use a drug that reduces the injury and inflammation caused by mechanical stresses.”

The research is published today (Jan. 12, 2021) in Nature Communications.

Though a therapy for humans is years away, the progress comes at a time when more patients than ever before are requiring mechanical ventilation: Cases of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have skyrocketed because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ARDS is one of the most frequent causes of respiratory failure that leads to putting patients on a ventilator.

“Before COVID, there were several hundred thousand cases of ARDS in the United States each year, most of which required mechanical ventilation. But in the past year there have been 21 million COVID-19 patients at risk,” said Englert, a physician who treats ICU patients.

The immune response to ventilation and the inflammation that comes with it can add to fluid build-up and low oxygen levels in the lungs of patients already so sick that they require life support.

The molecule that lessens inflammation in response to mechanical ventilation is called microRNA-146a (miR-146a). MicroRNAs are small segments of RNA that inhibit genes’ protein-building functions — in this case, turning off the production of proteins that promote inflammation.

The researchers found that immune cells in the lungs called alveolar macrophages — whose job is to protect the lungs from infection — activate miR-146a when they’re exposed to pressure that mimics mechanical ventilation. This action makes miR-146a part of the innate, or immediate, immune response launched by the body to begin its fight against what it is perceiving as an infection — the mechanical ventilation.

“This means an innate regulator of the immune system is activated by mechanical stress. That makes me think it’s there for a reason,” Ghadiali said. That reason, he said, is to help calm the inflammatory nature of the very immune response that is producing the microRNA.

The research team confirmed the moderate increase of miR-146a levels in alveolar macrophages in a series of tests on cells from donor lungs that were exposed to mechanical pressure and in mice on miniature ventilators. The lungs of genetically modified mice that lacked the microRNA were more heavily damaged by ventilation than lungs in normal mice — pointing to miR-146a’s protective role in lungs during mechanical breathing assistance. Finally, the researchers examined cells from lung fluid of ICU patients on ventilators and found miR-146a levels in their immune cells were increased as well.

The problem: The expression of miR-146a under normal circumstances isn’t high enough to stop lung damage from prolonged ventilation.

The intended therapy would be introducing much higher levels of miR-146a directly to the lungs to ward off inflammation that can lead to injury. When overexpression of miR-146a was prompted in cells that were then exposed to mechanical stress, inflammation was reduced.

To test the treatment in mice on ventilators, the team delivered nanoparticles containing miR-146a directly to mouse lungs — which resulted in a 10,000-fold increase in the molecule that reduced inflammation and kept oxygen levels normal. In the lungs of ventilated mice that received “placebo” nanoparticles, the increase in miR-146a was modest and offered little protection.

From here, the team is testing the effects of manipulating miR-146a levels in other cell types — these functions can differ dramatically, depending on each cell type’s job.

“In my mind, the next step is demonstrating how to use this technology as a precision tool to target the cells that need it the most,” Ghadiali said.

The collaborative work by researchers in engineering, pulmonary medicine and drug delivery was conducted at Ohio State’s Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute (DHLRI), where Englert and Ghadiali have labs and teamed with Ohio State graduate students and co-first authors Christopher Bobba from the MD/PhD training program and Qinqin Fei from the College of Pharmacy to lead the studies.

Additional Ohio State co-authors include DHLRI investigators Vasudha Shukla, Hyunwook Lee, Pragi Patel, Mark Wewers, John Christman and Megan Ballinger; Carleen Spitzer and MuChun Tsai of the College of Medicine; and Robert Lee of the College of Pharmacy. Rachel Putman of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston also worked on the study.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and an Ohio State Presidential Fellowship.

Moderna Says Its Covid-19 Vaccine Provides One Year’s Immunity

Moderna Says Its Covid-19 Vaccine Provides One Year’s Immunity

  • January 12, 2021

Topline

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine should provide immunity from disease for at least one year after vaccination, the company announced at a conference Monday, Reuters reports, adding that the company is “on track” to deliver at least 600 million doses of the vaccine in 2021. 

Key Facts

Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference Monday, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said immunity from the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, one of just two approved for emergency use in the U.S., should last for at least a year.

While clinical trials showed the vaccine to be highly effective at preventing disease, they do not show precisely how long this immunity will last and it is possible that a new coronavirus vaccine will be required on a regular basis to boost the immune system after this year long period has passed.

New variants of the virus can also learn to evade the protection offered by vaccines, and Moderna said it is well placed to respond to new variants of coronavirus, such as highly infectious variants currently spreading through South Africa and the U.K., owing to the adaptable mRNA technology used to develop the vaccine.

Bancel’s comments echo earlier statements from manufacturers at Pfizer and BioNTech, who point out the relative ease with which the vaccine’s core components can be edited to adapt to new variants. 

In addition to discussing the duration of the Moderna vaccine’s immunity, Bancel said the company is “very comfortable” with its track record at producing vaccines, adding that it is on track to deliver between 600 million and 1 billion doses by the end of the year. 

The company, which has never brought a product to market before, predicted  $11.7 billion in vaccine-related sales this year based on advance purchase agreements signed with governments.

Key Background

How long a particular vaccine can protect against disease is not well understood. Some vaccines can provide protection for months or years and others a lifetime. Data from the extensive clinical trials conducted on the Covid-19 vaccines does not tell us how long any immunity lasts. This will become clearer over time and is something manufacturers and regulators will monitor carefully. They will also monitor for changes to the virus, and it is common for manufacturers to return to the development stage if mutations occur. Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are all using a new type of technology for vaccines based on messenger RNA (mRNA), though there are some differences. Unlike many other vaccines which rely on weakened or dead viruses that must be grown in vast quantities, this molecule can simply be tweaked as needed and put back into the vaccine. “mRNA is fantastic because you can just swap a new strain and run with it,” Moderna’s CEO, Stéphane Bancel, previously told Forbes.

Further Reading

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Appears To Work Against New Covid Variants, Study Finds, As U.S. Records Deadliest Day (Forbes)

Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine immunity to stay at least a year (Reuters)

Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna Test Vaccines Against New Covid-19 Variant Spreading Across U.K. (Forbes)

What You Need To Know About Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine (Forbes)

A New Variant Of Covid-19 Has Emerged In England – Here Is What It Could Mean For The Pandemic And Vaccines (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

Brigham and Women’s study to test if Vitamin D can reduce coronavirus severity, transmission – Twin Cities

Brigham and Women’s study to test if Vitamin D can reduce coronavirus severity, transmission – Twin Cities

  • January 6, 2021

Vitamin D is known to boost the immune system by fighting off infection, and now a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study will test to see if the sunshine vitamin can lessen the severity of coronavirus symptoms and reduce the chance of becoming infected with the illness.

“Vitamin D supplementation is a promising approach to preventing severe COVID-19 illness and the need for hospitalization, as well as for preventing transmission of the infection to household members,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“We need randomized trials to test vitamin D for these purposes, and our VIVID trial will fill these knowledge gaps,” said Manson who is also the principal investigator of the Vitamin D for COVID-19 (VIVID) study, which is currently enrolling patients.

The nationwide, placebo-controlled study will include people age 30 and older who have gotten a positive coronavirus test result within the previous five days.

The 2,700 participants will take either high-dose vitamin D or a placebo pill for four weeks to see whether taking the supplement reduces the severity of symptoms and risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.

Manson said there are no harmful side effects to taking high doses of vitamin D.

The trial is conducted entirely remotely with no travel or clinic visits required. Participants can also enroll a household member who does not have coronavirus to test whether vitamin D supplements can lower the risk of becoming infected.

The best established benefits of vitamin D are for bone health, said Manson, and the main sources are sun exposure, fatty fish and fortified cereals and dairy products.

“There is lab and clinical evidence that vitamin D boosts our immune system to help fight off infections,” said Manson, adding that other studies show vitamin D can reduce excessive inflammation, which plays a large role in severe coronavirus.

Manson is not the only Boston researcher to look into vitamin D and its effects on coronavirus.

Boston University Dr. Michael Holick found in a study that people who had deficient levels of vitamin D had 54% higher COVID positivity compared to those with adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood.

Brigham and Women's study to test if Vitamin D can reduce coronavirus severity, transmission

Brigham and Women’s study to test if Vitamin D can reduce coronavirus severity, transmission

  • January 5, 2021

Vitamin D is known to boost the immune system by fighting off infection, and now a Brigham and Women’s Hospital study will test to see if the sunshine vitamin can lessen the severity of coronavirus symptoms and reduce the chance of becoming infected with the illness.

“Vitamin D supplementation is a promising approach to preventing severe COVID-19 illness and the need for hospitalization, as well as for preventing transmission of the infection to household members,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“We need randomized trials to test vitamin D for these purposes, and our VIVID trial will fill these knowledge gaps,” said Manson who is also the principal investigator of the Vitamin D for COVID-19 (VIVID) study, which is currently enrolling patients.

The nationwide, placebo-controlled study will include people age 30 and older who have gotten a positive coronavirus test result within the previous five days.

The 2,700 participants will take either high-dose vitamin D or a placebo pill for four weeks to see whether taking the supplement reduces the severity of symptoms and risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.

Manson said there are no harmful side effects to taking high doses of vitamin D.

The trial is conducted entirely remotely with no travel or clinic visits required. Participants can also enroll a household member who does not have coronavirus to test whether vitamin D supplements can lower the risk of becoming infected.

The best established benefits of vitamin D are for bone health, said Manson, and the main sources are sun exposure, fatty fish and fortified cereals and dairy products.

“There is lab and clinical evidence that vitamin D boosts our immune system to help fight off infections,” said Manson, adding that other studies show vitamin D can reduce excessive inflammation, which plays a large role in severe coronavirus.

Manson is not the only Boston researcher to look into vitamin D and its effects on coronavirus.

Boston University Dr. Michael Holick found in a study that people who had deficient levels of vitamin D had 54% higher COVID positivity compared to those with adequate levels of vitamin D in the blood.

Nature-based therapy can boost immune system function among older adults, study finds

  • January 1, 2021

A new study suggests that contact with nature can alleviate the aging immune system. Older adults who partook in six-months of horticultural therapy showed reduced T-cell exhaustion and inflammation. The findings were published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A.

As the immune system ages and declines, older adults are left with a greater risk of infection, inflammatory diseases, and cancer. While there are existing medical interventions that target age-related changes in the immune system, these procedures are costly and difficult to carry out over a wide population.

Study authors Glenn Choon Lim Wong and team describe a psychosocial intervention that has shown promise among the older population. Horticultural Therapy (HT) combines the mental health benefits associated with nature activities with the added physical benefits of breathing clean, less-polluted air and engaging in physical exercise. The researchers conducted an intervention study to explore HT as a potential candidate for improving immunological fitness.

The researchers assigned 59 Singapore adults between the ages of 61 and 77 to either receive a six-month HT intervention or to be on a waiting list. The therapy group participated in 15 hour-long sessions across the six months, at first weekly, and then monthly. The sessions included a mixture of indoor horticulture, park visits, and outdoor gardening. Blood samples were collected at baseline, three months into the intervention, and six months in.

The researchers found that the horticultural therapy was linked to lower T-cell exhaustion, a phenomenon which is characteristic of the aging immune system. T-cells are immune cells that are involved in fighting foreign substances and, as the authors describe, the exhaustion of these cells gets in the way of the body’s ability to overcome infections and cancers.

“HT has already been institutionalized in some hospitals to reinforce mental fortitude in cancer patients and our findings suggest that by lowering the expression of exhaustion markers, HT may also be beneficial in promoting T cell anti-tumour surveillance in older adults,” the researchers say.

Further, the HT group showed reduced inflammaging, which is a “chronic state of low-grade inflammation” that occurs in older adults and is thought to contribute to disease. This was demonstrated through lower levels of the inflammatory marker interleukin 6 (IL-6).

The authors acknowledge that their sample was small and mostly female and that future studies should attempt to replicate these effects among a larger, more diverse sample. They also suggest that future studies should explore whether or not these immune-boosting effects are partially driven by the physical exercise involved in nature-based activities.

Despite these limitations, the authors say the findings offer preliminary evidence that horticultural therapy can not only improve well-being and cognition but may also boost the aging immune system.

The study, “Horticultural Therapy Reduces Biomarkers of Immunosenescence and Inflammaging in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Feasibility Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial”, was authored by Glenn Choon Lim Wong, Ted Kheng Siang Ng, Jia Le Lee, Pei Yi Lim, Sean Kai Jie Chua, Crystal Tan, Michelle Chua, Janice Tan, Samantha Lee, Angelia Sia, Maxel K.W. Ng, Rathi Mahendran, Ee Heok Kua, Roger C.M. Ho, and Anis Larbi.

Children's immune response more effective against COVID-19 -- ScienceDaily

Study points the way to boost immunotherapy against breast cancer, other solid tumors — ScienceDaily

  • December 31, 2020

Boosting immune system T cells to effectively attack solid tumors, such as breast cancers, can be done by adding a small molecule to a treatment procedure called chimeric antigen receptor-T (CAR-T) cell therapy, according to a study by researchers at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The boost helps recruit more immune cells into battle at the tumor site. The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

CAR-T immunotherapy, in which T cells are modified in the laboratory to express chimeric antigen receptors, CARs, that in turn target surface proteins on cancer cells, has been most effective in the treatment of patients with B-cell leukemia or lymphoma. But this new research, conducted in mouse models, points to the potential for using CAR-T therapy effectively against solid tumors as well.

“We know that CAR T cells are safe for patients with solid tumors but so far they have not been able to cause significant tumor regression in the overwhelming majority of people treated,” said Jonathan S. Serody, MD, the Elizabeth Thomas Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Immunotherapy Program at UNC Lineberger. “Now we may have a new approach to make CAR T cells work in solid tumors, which we think could be a game-changer for therapies aimed at an appreciable number of cancers.”

Serody is the paper’s corresponding author and Nuo Xu, PhD, formerly a graduate student at UNC Lineberger and UNC School of Medicine, is the first author.

For CAR-T cell therapy to be effective, T cells infused back into patients have to be able to migrate to the site of a tumor. In treating patients with non-solid tumors, such as lymphomas, CAR T cells home in on bone marrow and other organs that make up the lymphatic system. But for solid tumors, such as breast cancer, that is usually not the case. Even if they do migrate to the tumor, they don’t persist and expand well there due to the nature of the microenvironment surrounding such tumors, noted Serody.

So Serody and colleagues looked for ways to direct the lab-expanded cells toward the site of solid tumors. They focused on Th17 and Tc17 cells, which are known to have longer persistence in the micro-environment that surrounds a tumor, in part due to their better survival capabilities. To boost accumulation of Th17 and Tc17 cells near solid tumors, they turned to two small molecules that can activate an immune response: the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) agonists DMXAA and cGAMP.

DMXAA, which worked well in the investigator’s mouse studies, has not provided benefit in human clinical trials as it does not activate human STING. The other STING agonist however, cGAMP, does activate human STING and is known to boost the human immune system. It also works well in mice.

In Serody’s experiments, mice injected with cGAMP exhibited enhanced proliferation of T cells and those cells migrated to the tumor site. The end result was a significant decrease in tumor growth and enhanced survival.

“We hope to be able to study cGAMP in humans fairly soon,” concluded Serody. “We will look to see if we can produce improvements in the treatment of head and neck cancers first, and if that proves promising, move into other forms of cancer by using CAR T cells generated by one of our colleagues here at UNC.”

UNC Lineberger is one of a select few academic centers in the United States with the scientific, technical and clinical capabilities to develop and deliver CAR-T immunotherapy to patients. The cancer center currently has nine CAR-T clinical trials open and is developing new trials to treat a number of solid tumors, including ovarian and head and neck cancer. It also offers patients commercially available CAR-T therapies.

Authors and Disclosures

In addition to Serody and Xu, the paper’s other authors are Alexander C. Robeson, PhD, Peishun Shou, PhD, Hemamalini Bommiasamy, PhD, Sonia J. Laurie, PhD, Caryn Willis, MS, Gianpietro Dotti, MD, and Benjamin Vincent, MD, UNC Lineberger and UNC School of Medicine; Douglas C. Palmer, PhD, National Cancer Institute; and Nicholas P. Restifo, MD, Lyell Immunophara, Inc., formerly of the National Cancer Institute.

This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (P50-CA058223) and the University Cancer Research Fund.

Study points the way to boost immunotherapy against breast cancer, other solid tumors

Study points the way to boost immunotherapy against breast cancer, other solid tumors

  • December 31, 2020

IMAGE

IMAGE: UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Jonathan S. Serody, MD, and colleagues report that adding a small molecule to a chimeric antigen receptor-T (CAR-T) cell therapy can help immune system T…
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Credit: UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

CHAPEL HILL, NC–Boosting immune system T cells to effectively attack solid tumors, such as breast cancers, can be done by adding a small molecule to a treatment procedure called chimeric antigen receptor-T (CAR-T) cell therapy, according to a study by researchers at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. The boost helps recruit more immune cells into battle at the tumor site. The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

CAR-T immunotherapy, in which T cells are modified in the laboratory to express chimeric antigen receptors, CARs, that in turn target surface proteins on cancer cells, has been most effective in the treatment of patients with B-cell leukemia or lymphoma. But this new research, conducted in mouse models, points to the potential for using CAR-T therapy effectively against solid tumors as well.

“We know that CAR T cells are safe for patients with solid tumors but so far they have not been able to cause significant tumor regression in the overwhelming majority of people treated,” said Jonathan S. Serody, MD, the Elizabeth Thomas Professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Immunotherapy Program at UNC Lineberger. “Now we may have a new approach to make CAR T cells work in solid tumors, which we think could be a game-changer for therapies aimed at an appreciable number of cancers.”

Serody is the paper’s corresponding author and Nuo Xu, PhD, formerly a graduate student at UNC Lineberger and UNC School of Medicine, is the first author.

For CAR-T cell therapy to be effective, T cells infused back into patients have to be able to migrate to the site of a tumor. In treating patients with non-solid tumors, such as lymphomas, CAR T cells home in on bone marrow and other organs that make up the lymphatic system. But for solid tumors, such as breast cancer, that is usually not the case. Even if they do migrate to the tumor, they don’t persist and expand well there due to the nature of the microenvironment surrounding such tumors, noted Serody.

So Serody and colleagues looked for ways to direct the lab-expanded cells toward the site of solid tumors. They focused on Th17 and Tc17 cells, which are known to have longer persistence in the micro-environment that surrounds a tumor, in part due to their better survival capabilities. To boost accumulation of Th17 and Tc17 cells near solid tumors, they turned to two small molecules that can activate an immune response: the stimulator of interferon genes (STING) agonists DMXAA and cGAMP.

DMXAA, which worked well in the investigator’s mouse studies, has not provided benefit in human clinical trials as it does not activate human STING. The other STING agonist however, cGAMP, does activate human STING and is known to boost the human immune system. It also works well in mice.

In Serody’s experiments, mice injected with cGAMP exhibited enhanced proliferation of T cells and those cells migrated to the tumor site. The end result was a significant decrease in tumor growth and enhanced survival.

“We hope to be able to study cGAMP in humans fairly soon,” concluded Serody. “We will look to see if we can produce improvements in the treatment of head and neck cancers first, and if that proves promising, move into other forms of cancer by using CAR T cells generated by one of our colleagues here at UNC.”

UNC Lineberger is one of a select few academic centers in the United States with the scientific, technical and clinical capabilities to develop and deliver CAR-T immunotherapy to patients. The cancer center currently has nine CAR-T clinical trials open and is developing new trials to treat a number of solid tumors, including ovarian and head and neck cancer. It also offers patients commercially available CAR-T therapies.

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Authors and Disclosures

In addition to Serody and Xu, the paper’s other authors are Alexander C. Robeson, PhD, Peishun Shou, PhD, Hemamalini Bommiasamy, PhD, Sonia J. Laurie, PhD, Caryn Willis, MS, Gianpietro Dotti, MD, and Benjamin Vincent, MD, UNC Lineberger and UNC School of Medicine; Douglas C. Palmer, PhD, National Cancer Institute; and Nicholas P. Restifo, MD, Lyell Immunophara, Inc., formerly of the National Cancer Institute.

This work was supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute (P50-CA058223) and the University Cancer Research Fund.

Serody has grant support from NCI, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Merck Inc., Glaxo Smith Kline, and Carisma Therapeutics. He receives consulting fees from PIQUE Therapeutics. Vincent discloses consulting fees and equity in GeneCentric Therapeutics. Dotti holds patents in the field of T cell engineering and has sponsored research agreements with Bluebird Bio, Cell Medica and Bellicum Pharmaceutical. Dotti also serves on the scientific advisory board of MolMed S.p.A and Bellicum Pharmaceutical. Serody, Restifo and Xu have filed for intellectual property protection for the use of STING agonists to enhance CAR-T cell therapy in solid tumors. No other disclosures were reported.

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