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Toxoplasma gondii seems to be helpful in cancer treatment

Toxoplasma gondii seems to be helpful in cancer treatment

Publish date: 2014-08-19

Common cat parasite which is harmful and sometimes deadly to people can be transformed into anticancer vaccine. Tumors disturbed natural immune response in order to be safe against natural forces defense of the body. While T. gondii is presence in cells, they started to produce toxic lymphocytes T and NK against cancer cells.

Tags: cancer , T. gondii , cat , immunology , immune response , therapeutic vaccine , parasite , anticancer treatment

Scientists from Dartmouth University noticed that immune response to T. gondii is similar to this desirable response as an attack into cancer. There is research in progress with the aim to produce the vaccine, that is safe and effective.

It is estimated that one third of people is carrier of toxoplasma gondii. Those parasites natural environment is cats intestines. It is transmitted by dirt, possible contact of cat with excrement is potential of infection. It also goes this way with humans – petting the cat, then without hygienical washing hands, touching face, mouth, or eating something – this is the most common scheme of infection spread.

Veterinarian, Małgorzata Folusiak-Cieślewicz indicates, that not animals are fully responsible for the transmission of the pathogen. “Some myth or stereotype exists, that blame cats for those infections. T. gondii survives in the environment, outside the living organism, thus potential source of infection is consumption of unwashed fruits and vegetables (in general all of food that had direct contact with soil) and undercook meat. Observe the principles of basic hygiene food intake and above all, adequate thermal treatment of meat will reduce number of incidences due to the above-mentioned protozoan.

Toxoplasma gondii often is silent passenger in human organism, unfortunately sometimes can develop serious disease. There is no standard scheme of particular symptoms, thus the diagnosis is difficult. Especially the infection is danger within women carrying babies, the parasite is extremely threatening to the fetus but it also threatens the mother's life.

What’s the immune response to Toxoplasma Gondii? Answers Prof. Henryka Długońska, PhD.

Immune response consists of two elements. Firstly it is non-specific immunity, an early response based on granulocytes, macrophages, NK (Natural killers) and dendritic cells and soluble factors including pro-inflammatory agents, for instance – INF γ released by NK cells.

These innate mechanisms seem to be less important than specific immune response in which are involved lymphocytes, both T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes. The final and most desirable product of specific response are CTL – cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Therefore this is unique response that activates the Th1 (T helper1) lymphocytes which stimuli the development of parasite-specific CTL and, moreover the immune response is very strong because T. gondii is highly immunogenic. Those effector immune cells may kill all of host cells that are infected with the parasite. Second meaning in this response have secondary antibodies, but they works only on parasites that are present extracellular, usually for a short time. On the other hand, antibodies have actual meaning in diagnostics. Interestingly the protective immune profile of T. gondii immunity is exactly the same one which is desirable in anticancer therapy.

CTL, lymphocytes Th1 and NK are mostly coveted cells for potential anticancer activity. The same cidal properties that those cells have against T. gondii are useful in destruction of cancer cells. The idea in usage of T. gondii in anticancer therapy is based on redirecting the immune response into Th1 lymphocytes activity and CTL. Thus our main task is to change the immunological microenvironment of tumor.

The immune response is modified, that the Th1 lymphocytes are pulled to help in the generation of tumor-specific CTL. Nobody modifies the cancer, we do not change its antigenic structures, we try to change the reactivity of the patient to stimulate the T helper1 lymphocytes that are involved in differentiation specific clones of CTL that are directed anti-tumor and would destroy tumor cells with usage of specific cidal substances like perforin and granzymes. We “switch-over” the immune response and stimuli the organism to fight over cancer by itself. T. gondii is only a stimulating factor that would modify the immune response against tumor. Therefore we can start to call it therapeutic vaccine – introduction the pathogen into human body switch the response and the patients organism starts to eliminate the cancer cells by himself. Regarding the immunological memory, even when recurrence of the cancer occurs the memory lymphocytes would transform into CTL and would take fight again with cancer cells.

Immune response of the organism against T. gondii seems to be helpful in treatment of ovarian cancer and melanoma. Natural cytotoxic cells lymphocytes NK and T in neutral conditions should fight against cancer, while tumor adapts and is not detected as a foreign body inside human organism. The stimulation from the outside to produce lymphocytes may be crucial to trigger this response in cancer treatment. During lab research on murine models of melanoma and ovarian cancer scientists noticed high rate of survival. Also regarding the immunological memory, the vaccine may be the remedy in prevention of tumors development.

The genetic alterations let the parasite replicate, grow and enhance the immune response, but is devoid of virulence. Furthermore the scientists in future maybe alter the genome of parasite in that way to be completely attuned to type of cancer or as a targeted or personalized therapy.

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite capable of infecting all nucleated cells of all species warm-blooded animals. The cat is the definitive host, where sexual reproduction of the parasite can occur effecting with creation of oocysts. Those are excreted with the feces, get to the soil and after about three days are able to infect another potential host - the most common rodents. It inhabits various organs, especially muscles and brain. Parasite life cycle is completed when will hit the final host - cat, by eating smaller organisms – mice or rats.

Hanna Banasiak




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