The Molecular Diagnostics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory (Stem Cell) Unit/ Section offers a promising area of hope for the amelioration of many diseases for which there has previously been no cure and minimal hope of prevention.

The Stem Cell Laboratory provides quality, autologous dendritic cell vaccines and other autologous adult stem cell-based therapies. For active immunotherapy, dendritic cells are used to trigger the immune response against diseases including cancer. For regenerative purposes, autologous adult stem cells are administered to mediate repair of affected tissues.

The following are the services offered by the Molecular Diagnostics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory (Stem Cell unit):

1.  Immune Cell Therapy (Dendritic Cell Therapy)

2.  Circulating Tumor Cell Count

3.  Regenerative Therapy (MSC, EPC)

4.  3 and 6 Gene Expression ( Tumor Gene Expression Panel)

5.  EGFR Test (Roche)

6.  EGFR Test (Astra Zenica)

The EGFR test is used primarily to help guide treatment and determine whether a patient with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may benefit from targeted therapy. This testing detects the presence activating mutations in the EGFR gene in the DNA of cells in tumor tissue.

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are special type of cells in the body that have the ability to differentiate into other cell/tissue types. This ability allows them to replace cells that have died. Because of this ability, they have been tapped to replace or control defective cells/tissues in patients who have certain diseases or defects. There are three sources of autologous adult stem cells:

1) Bone marrow, harvested by aspiration

2) Adipose tissue (lipid cells), harvested by liposuction, and

3) Blood, collected through leukapheresis – a process where blood is  
    drawn from the patient, passed through a machine that selects
    only the stem cells and returns all other components of the 
    blood back to the patient.

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1.  Autologous Dendritic Cell Vaccine Therapy

2.  Tumor Gene Expression Profiling (3 and 6 Gene Panel)

3.  Circulating Tumor Cell Count

What is Immunotherapy? (Immune Cell Vaccine/Dendritic Cell Vaccine)

Immunotherapy, a form of biological therapy or biotherapy, is a type of treatment that stimulates or restores the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease including cancer. 

It is a comparatively new type of therapy in the fight against diseases including cancer. Much of the therapy is still in clinic trials although a lot is being used for innovative treatment. Clinical trials are one of the way to get state-of-the-art cancer treatment. They are the only way of doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. They are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatment or procedures. Researchers are confident that this emerging field of medicine will offer a new line of defense in the fight against cancer. This was recently recognized when Dr. Ralph Steinman, a biologist with Rockefeller University, was named winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and his life was extended for four years using a dendritic cell-based immunotherapy of his own design.

There are good reasons to think that the immune system helps in the fight against cancer. Inspite of this, many people with normal immune systems still develop cancer, maybe because the immune system doesn’t see the cancer cells as foreign or if they do recognize them as foreign, the response may not be strong enough to destroy the cancer cells and strengthen its response so that it will destroy the cancer.

The therapy mainly consists of stimulating the immune system to help it do its job more effectively. It does this in 2 ways:
          – active immunotherapies which stimulate the body’s own immune  
             system to fight the disease

            – passive immunotherapies which uses immune system 
             components (such as antibodies) which are made in the    
             laboratory and does not rely on the body to attack the disease.

How does it work?

Cancer vaccines are thought of as active immunotherapies because they are meant to trigger the immune system to respond. The vaccine increases the immune response against cancer cells that are already in the body. They are specicific because they only affect cancer cells. It may be combined with other substances that help boost the immune system further. What is even better is that they cause the immune system to attack cancer cells, and because the immune system has special cells for memory, it is hoped that this will keep the cancer from coming back.

Cancer vaccines that makes use of dendritic cells are called the dendritic cell vaccines. Dendritic cells are specialized white blood cells that act as antigen presenting cells which help the immune system recognize cancer cells as foreign cells. These dendritic cells find unwanted cells in the body, chew them up and break them down into smaller pieces, travel to an area with many other white blood cells and activate these other cells to go out and attack the cancer cells resulting in eradication of the tumor cells or a stabilization in the disease process.

How is it made?

Dendritic cell vaccines are autologous vaccines (“autologous” means coming from self) that are custom made for each individual patient in whom they will be used. The process used to create them is complex and expensive. It involves harvesting the stem cells of the patient from his own blood, growing, treating and including them to become dendritic cells. These dendritic cells are then primed or exposed to the patients’ own irradiated tumor cells or cancer antigens in order to teach them to recognize the tumor that the patient has. Once accomplished, the dendritic cells which have the patients’ skin like an ordinary vaccine. Once in the body, they migrate to thr lymphoid tissues where they interact with other white blood cells to initiate and shape the adaptive immune response of the patient. The dendritic cells that have the cancer antigens on their surface are better able to help the patient’s immune system recognize and destroy the cancer cells that have those antigens on them. Autologous dendritic cells that are primed with the tumor antigens can provide potent antitumor response, will exhibit low or no toxicity, show a precise specificity, and a sustained therapeutic effect (due to immunologic memory).

When to do it?

Anytime, preferably before any other form of treatment is given because the stem cells have to harvested. It is sometimes used by itself to treat cancer whihch are non-responsive to the usual treatment but it is most helpful if used along with (chemotherapy or radiotherapy) or after another type of treatment to boost its effects and lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. It makes other forms of treatment or gives cancer patients a treatment option that may be less toxic than the usual treatment. 

Who does this procedure?

Molecular Diagnostics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory
Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City 1100
Telephone No. 8924-6101 local 2751 to 2754 / 8928-8125