In Situ Administration of Cytokine Combinations Could Be the Future of Immunotherapy

By Riya Gandhi ‘22

Figure 1. In this study, tumors were induced in mice through their drinking water.

Rather than look outwards for new cancer treatments, scientists are beginning to look inwards – that is, inside the human body – for advanced therapeutic treatments. Although the use of cytokines, biomolecules that direct an immune response,in cancer therapy has been attempted for decades, there is still room for much improvement. In a recent study on cytokines, researchers under the guidance of Dr. Jinyu Zhang from Mianyi Biotech Corporation were able to determine that certain cytokine combinations induce tumor regression and antitumor immunity.

First, the researchers obtained and cultured various cancer cell lines in mice including, melanoma, Lewis lung carcinoma, EL4 lymphoma, and colon carcinoma. Next, to construct cytokine-producing cells, the DNA sequence encoding the reverse tet transactivator protein (rtTA) was synthesized and subcloned multiple times until 293 cells could be transduced. The resulting cell lines were renamed. Afterwards, researchers plated cells, induced green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression, and photographed the cells using a fluorescence microscope. Following this procedure, the cells were inoculated into the mice through their water. The researchers observed that one particular cytokine combination, IL12+GMCSF+IL2, expressed superior antitumor activity when introduced to the mice, leading to the elimination or regression of the induced tumors within ten days.

While the researchers acknowledged that this approach to cancer treatment has yet to demonstrate effectiveness in cells other than those in mice, they hope to be able to move forward and apply the same procedure to human cells in a future study. This discovery, therefore, is a significant stepping stone towards the expansion of immunotherapeutic treatment methods.



  1. J. Zhang, et. al., In situ administration of cytokine combinations induces tumor regression in mice. EbioMedicine (2018). doi:  
  2. Image retrieved from:

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