Harvard team heralds cancer vaccine breakthrough

A research group at Harvard has developed a new approach to delivering therapeutic cancer vaccines, testing a small implant that contains tumor-specific antigens. The scientists say the implant, a small plastic disk that is about the same size as a fingernail, offers a more effective approach to delivering cancer vaccines than what's in the clinic today.

The implants release a swarm of cytokines that spur dendritic cells--potent immune cells that are exposed to the tumor-specific antigens. Once exposed, they migrate to lymph nodes where they can target tumor cells.

"Inserted anywhere under the skin -- much like the implantable contraceptives that can be placed in a woman's arm -- the implants activate an immune response that destroys tumor cells," said Harvard's David Mooney, a bioengineering professor. That approach eliminated melanoma tumors in mice and has the potential to do the same for humans. "By marrying engineering and immunology through this collaboration with Glenn Dranoff at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, we've taken a major step toward the design of effective cancer vaccines."

- check out Harvard's press release
- read the story from HealthDay News