Vaccine developed to exploit cancer cells to aid in their own destruction

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CHICAGO, March 25 (Xinhua) — Researchers at the University of Chicago (UChicago) have developed a new therapeutic vaccine that uses a patient’s own tumor cells to train their immune system to find and kill cancer.

To create the vaccine, the researchers used melanoma cells from mice and then engineered them to secrete a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor C, or VEGF-C. Then the researchers irradiated them, so they would die within a few weeks.

When the researchers injected the cells back into the skin of mice, they found that the dying tumor cells could attract and activate the immune cells, which then could recognize and kill the actual tumor cells growing on the opposite side of the mouse.

That led to the prevention of tumor growth in all of the mice. It also led to immunological memory, preventing new tumor growth when tumors were re-introduced 10 months later.

Conceptually, this is the first strategy to exploit the benefits of local lymphatic vessel activation for more robust and specific immune response against tumor cells.

Unlike immunotherapeutic strategies that stimulate the immune system in a general way, such as checkpoint blockade or the many cytokines currently in preclinical development, this new immunotherapy activates only tumor-specific immune cells. Theoretically, this would avoid common side effects of immune stimulants, including immunotoxicity and even death.

Rather than a preventive measure, this is a therapeutic vaccine, meaning it activates the immune system to destroy cancer cells anywhere in the body.

“This is a new strategy for immunotherapy,” said Melody Swartz, who led the research. “It has the potential to be more efficacious, less expensive and much safer than many other immunotherapies. It is truly personalized medicine that has the potential to overcome many issues that arise with other treatments.”

The researchers are working to test this strategy on breast and colon cancers and think it could theoretically work on any type of cancer.

They hope to ultimately take this therapy to clinical trials.

The results were published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. Enditem

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