What is Transimmunization?

Transimmunization is an immunotherapy devised by a Yale University School of Medicine research team, led by Richard Edelson, MD. His co-inventors are Carole Berger, PhD, and Douglas Hanlon, PhD. Transimmunization was developed as a treatment for immunogenic of cancers and T cell mediated immunologic disorders. It involves the efficient transfer of disease-associated antigens to dendritic antigen presenting cells which initiate immunization against these antigens.

Transimmunization is a more efficient means of accomplishing the same, as well as additional, clinical goals as Photopheresis (also referred to as Extracorporeal Photochemotherapy or ECP). Dr. Edelson was also the inventor of Photopheresis around which Johnson&Johnson built a subsidiary company, Therakos, Inc.

Transimmunization is currently an experimental therapy and is being tested in several clinical settings, ranging from immunogenic cancers to autoimmune diseases. Photopheresis, the immunotherapy Transimmunization is intended to replace, is currently available in more than 150 tertiary care medical centers worldwide and has been administered more than 250,000 times.

Photopheresis has been directed to the treatment for cutaneous T cell lymphoma, graft-versus-host disease, rejection of transplanted organs and certain autoimmune diseases. It will now be important to determine whether, as anticipated, the more potent Transimmunization is as safe as Photopheresis, can produce a higher percentage of clinical responses and can be efficaciously administered to treat a broader range of cancers and diseases of the immune system.

Although the Photopheresis list of accomplishments is long, including its being the first FDA approved selective immunotherapy for any cancer, it also has had serious flaws. Most significantly, its mechanism of action was unclear, precluding logical improvements of the treatment or application to additional types of cancers and diseases of the immune system.

Recently, after twenty years of intensive scientific investigation, the Yale researchers have decoded the previously mysterious mechanism by which Photopheresis produces its clinical successes. Specifically, they discovered that Photopheresis works by causing large scale conversion of processed blood monocytes into dendritic antigen presenting cells or DC. These new DC can be loaded with antigens derived from the disease causing cells. In conducive clinical settings, the antigenically charged DC can then constitute a cellular vaccine capable of inducing an immune response which suppresses the disease process. Building on the principles responsible for the efficacy of Photopheresis, the Yale group devised Transimmunization, a far more efficient means of loading the DC.

Transimmunization produces large numbers of new dendritic cells and loads these new DC with the relevant antigens. It is anticipated that the new treatment will be useful in the management of patients with a much broader spectrum of cancers and T cell mediated disorders.