The telomerase-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
(CTLs) isolated from the peripheral blood of vaccinated study subjects killed telomerase targets in vitro.
The authors had previously found that telomere loss in cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
(CTLs), the cells responsible for killing HIV-infected cells, was accelerated in AIDS patients, and contributed to the loss of anti-HIV activity that occurs during disease progression.
Those publications, as well as subsequent research, demonstrated that messenger RNA encoding the catalytic reverse transcriptase protein component of human telomerase (hTERT mRNA), when introduced into dendritic cells, can stimulate the immune system to produce cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
(CTLs, or killer T-cells) capable of recognizing and destroying telomerase-positive cancer cells.
Telomerase was introduced into human dendritic cells by gene transfer enabling the dendritic cells to generate telomerase specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
(CTLs) that killed all three tumor cell lines.
The research, published in the September 1, 2002 issue of Cancer Research, shows that RNA encoding the protein component of telomerase (TERT RNA), when introduced into dendritic cells (DCs), is effective in priming telomerase-specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
(CTLs) to target and destroy malignant tumors.
The Company has exclusive rights to a patent, issued to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in October 1998, related to a process for rapidly expanding cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
in culture to millions or billions of cells that retain their ability to recognize specific disease-related antigens.
Viagene scientists believe that these gene therapy techniques achieve efficacy though enhanced stimulation of killer T- cells, or cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
, the body's primary defense against viral infections and cancer.
The readministration of these cells is intended to lead to a vigorous immune response of cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
and antibodies against HIV.
Utilizing Cytel's advanced understanding of the immune system's operation both in disease and in health, the Company is developing drug candidates under two distinct approaches: the immune suppression program targets inflammatory diseases and reperfusion injury through the use of cell adhesion blockers that prevent the excessive migration of white blood cells into surrounding tissue, and the immune stimulation program is directed to the development of therapeutic vaccines to treat infectious diseases and cancers by stimulating production of antigen- specific cytotoxic T-lymphocytes
by the immune system.