Cancer "Vaccine" That Wipes out Tumors Ready for Human Trial

03 February, 2018, 03:32 | Author: Hope Soto
  • Ronald Levy and Idit Sagiv-Barfi the study’s lead author. Image credits Steve Fisch  Stanford University

Stanford University researchers have demonstrated that injecting tiny amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into tumours in mice can eliminate all traces of cancer, in what could be a ground-breaking new approach for treating the deadly disease.

The method works for many different types of cancer, even in case of spontaneous tumors.

During the research, scientists find that a very little amount of these agents can work as a relatively cheap cancer therapy which unlikely gives way to some adverse side effects that get visible with bodywide immune stimulation.

"When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body", senior author Ronald Levy, M.D., professor of oncology, said in a statement.

This vaccine avoids the need to identify tumor-specific immunity targets and does not require the significant activation of the immune system, or to personalize the immune cells of the patient.

Of the two immune agents used in the study, one has already been approved for use in humans, and the second is now involved in a lymphoma treatment trial.

However, the new treatment harnesses the immune system's own ability to recognise cancer cells and infiltrate tumours.

While some approaches stimulate the entire immune system, others target certain areas to block the cancer from straying, and others (like the newly-approved auto T-cell therapy) removed immune cells from the body to genetically-engineer them. However, as the tumour grows, it often devises ways to suppress T cell activity.

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Authors said the method works to reactivate the cancer-specific T cells by injecting microgram amounts of two agents directly into the tumor site. The first is a short piece of DNA called CpG oligonucleotide.

Secondly, an antibody binds to this receptor, activating the T cells so that they attack the cancer cells. Two different immune-stimulating compounds were injected into the tumor.

Levy and his colleagues tested their vaccine in more than 90 mice, some with a tumor transplanted into them and others that were genetically primed to develop cancer.

What's more, they said this approach worked for lymphoma, breast cancer, colon cancer and the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

A revolutionary cancer vaccine which triggers the whole body to attack tumours from one injection is to go into human trials. For mice with two tumors, injecting one tumor with the combination prevented the growth of the second one. The cancer recurred in some of the mice, but tumors regressed again after further treatment.

The researchers expect to start a small human trial including 15 people with lymphoma soon. If successful, he believes it could treat many types of tumors.

And because the agents are injected directly into the cancerous tumor, they are prescreened to recognize only cancer-specific proteins.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant CA188005), the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the Boaz and Varda Dotan Foundation and the Phil N. Allen Foundation.

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