Cancer immunotherapy — the process of activating a patient’s own immune system to fight a tumor — is a booming field in drug development. But it faces certain hurdles. Fewer than a quarter of cancer patients benefit from leading drugs in the class known as “checkpoint inhibitors.” And personalized cellular therapies are costly and complicated to create and deliver.
To help solve those challenges, scientists at Harvard have developed an implantable device that would pull immune cells into the implant, train them to recognize pieces of the patient’s tumor, and then release these cells — with the end goal of creating a sustained attack against the cancer. And last week the researchers announced they have struck a licensing agreement with Novartis to use their approach to make an implantable cancer vaccine.