The Department of Gastroenterological Surgery Ⅱ conducts its own fundamental research of molecular biology with consideration for clinical applications, in its research laboratories with the guidance of Dr. Tsuchikawa and Dr. Nakamura, as well as a number of graduate students. Research cooperation has also spread to include a number of other common research centers.
Recently, immunotherapy is anticipated as the fourth treatment method in cancer therapy after surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Our research focuses on a vaccine targeting MAGE-A4 antigen which is one of Cancer Testis Antigen (CTA). Clinical research was also conducted, which had led to clinical trials between 2009 and 2012 of the CHP-MAGE-A4 vaccine, used against MAGE-A4 found in refractory malignant tumors. Along with the confirmation of the safety of the vaccine and its clinical efficiency in February 2012, we are currently conducting research on the therapeutic effect biomarker of the vaccine.
CTA is an antigen found in large numbers in cancer cells but not in normal cells except for those in the testis. Given the discovery of these antigenic agents, immunotherapy similar to the above anti-cancer vaccine therapy is currently under investigation. Including MAGE-A4, our research lab is investigating antigen presentation of CTAs such as MAGE-A3, NY-ESO-1, and WT-1, as well as optimizing measurement methods of antigen expression ratio and manifestation in cancer patients. We hope our research leads to the development of a cancer vaccine therapy that can be used in effective immunotherapy.
Although chemotherapy and radiotherapy are parts of multidisciplinary therapy during radical resection of recurrent and advanced cancers, these methods currently have a limited effect and do not provide enough therapeutic outcomes. Although chemotherapeutic agents and radiation therapy have these limitations, immune cells, vascular endothelial cells, and fibroblasts found in the surrounding area of cancer cells play an important role in the local tumor microenvironment. Our research focuses on the use of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, HLA down-regulation and suppressor cells present in this microenvironment as surgical factors in the treatment of refractory cancers such as esophageal, pancreatic and biliary tract cancers.