Washington: A new study has brought personalized cancer vaccine approach one step closer to reality.
Research led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that in the near future, physicians might treat some cancer patients with personalized vaccines that spur their immune systems to attack malignant tumors.
Like flu vaccines, cancer vaccines in development are designed to alert the immune system to be on the lookout for dangerous invaders. But instead of preparing the immune system for potential pathogen attacks, the vaccines will help key immune cells recognize the unique features of cancer cells already present in the body.
Scientists at Washington University already are evaluating personalized cancer vaccines in patients with metastatic melanoma in a clinical trial led by Gerald Linette, MD, PhD, and Beatriz Carreno, PhD at Siteman Cancer Center. The researchers also are working to use the vaccines against breast, brain, lung, and head and neck cancers, and additional trials are anticipated in the next year or two.
The results showed that the vaccines could enable the immune system to destroy or drive into remission a significant number of tumors. For example, the vaccines cured nearly 90 percent of mice with an advanced form of muscle cancer.
The technique was inspired by a therapy scientists call checkpoint blockade. This immune-based cancer treatment, which has been successful against advanced lung and skin cancers in clinical trials, takes advantage of immune T cells that are present in many tumors but have been shut off by cancer cells.
The study is published in an issue of Nature.