A vaccine against a variety of different cancers has produced positive results in early laboratory testing on human cells and humanized mice. In a paper published in Clinical and Translational Immunology, the vaccine developed by the Translational Research Institute in Australia in collaboration with the University of Queensland has produced promising results in helping the immune system recognize and attack certain tumors.
The results may have huge implications for the development of a large-scale cancer vaccine, something researchers have been striving to achieve for decades. The team believes that the vaccine may be applicable to a wide range of cancers in either delaying their progression or preventing them entirely.
“We are hoping this vaccine could be used to treat blood cancers, (myeloid leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and pediatric leukemias) plus solid malignancies including breast, lung, renal, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers, and glioblastoma,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Kristen Radford in a press release.
The idea of a cancer vaccine isn’t new, with multiple research teams around the world conducting clinical trials for candidates as we speak (a list of recruiting trials in the UK can be found here). They work in the same way as vaccines against any disease, by containing the same proteins shown on cancer cells. Immune cells recognize the proteins, which destroy the cell presenting the protein and create memory cells against it – if the same proteins show up on a cancer cell later, the immune system recognizes it quickly and can destroy it.
This particular vaccine contains a mixture of antibodies that have been fused with a tumor-specific protein to invoke an immune response when presented to dendritic cells (a type of white blood cell). When targeted at dendritic cells, the researchers hoped the tumor protein would be recognized by another type of immune cell (CD8+), activating them and causing the immune system to respond to the tumor cells.
Early trials showed that the vaccine delivered the tumor-specific protein successfully and invoked an immune response, suggesting it is a strong candidate for immunotherapy against the cancers listed above.
Alongside the promising results, Professor Radford also believes the vaccine may be far more viable than those currently being developed.
“First, it can be produced as an ‘off the shelf’ clinical-grade formulation, which circumvents the ﬁnancial and logistical issues associated with patient-speciﬁc vaccines,” she said.
“Secondly, this prototype vaccine targets the key tumor cells required for the initiation of tumor-speciﬁc immune responses, thereby maximizing potential effectiveness of treatment, while minimizing potential side effects."