Antibodies which inhibit PD-1 are being widely discussed as a potential breakthrough in immunotherapy for cancer. Efforts to begin testing this method for children with neuroblastoma in clinical trials have just begun.
PD-1, which stands for ‘Programmed Cell Death Protein 1’ is a protein which plays an important role in our immune systems. It prevents the activation of T-cells to reduce autoimmunity. Evidence has shown that blocking the anti T-cell activity of PD-1 can activate the immune system against tumours.
Many tumour cells express PD-1, limiting the T-cell response to their presence. The use of antibodies which inhibit PD-1 has been shown to enhance T-cell response and kill cancer cells.
The use of these antibodies has shown promising results in some lung and skin cancers, but more disappointing results in other cancer types such as colon and pancreatic cancer.
Solving Kids’ Cancer, an American charity which works closely with the NCCA UK, is funding a study in Texas to use a PD-1 inhibitor in combination with genetically modified T-cells. This is the first use of such an antibody in neuroblastoma and will be watched with fascination by organisations all over the world, including the NCCA UK.