An international group of investigators led by a prominent immunologist at the Mayo Clinic has engineered a new therapeutic cancer vaccine that they believe could offer a powerful new weapon against prostate cancer. And they say that after successfully testing their approach in mice, they're two years away from getting this program into human trials.
"We are hopeful that this will overcome some of the major hurdles which we have seen with immunotherapy cancer research," says Richard Vile, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic immunologist and a lead author of the study. The cancer vaccine worked with no apparent side effects, a far cry from the harsh impact that chemotherapy has on the human body. The study--the work of Vile and collaborators in the U.K.--was published in Nature Medicine.
To create the vaccine, scientists took chunks of complementary DNA assembled using genetic code taken from healthy prostate tissue, inserted it into a virus and then injected that into the mice as a vaccine. The investigators method deployed prostate cancer antigens through the viral vector, spurring a powerful T cell response that swarmed cancer cells. The same approach could also be used against lung, brain and pancreatic cancer.
"Nobody really knows how many antigens the immune system can really see o
n tumor cells," says Dr. Vile. "By expressing all of these proteins in highly immunogenic viruses, we increased their visibility to the immune system. The immune system now thinks it is being invaded by the viruses, which are expressing cancer-related antigens that should be eliminated."
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