How about a cancer vaccine?

201309-omag-vaccine-949x534Catherine Aumann (12:00 Micro) found an article in Science Daily describing new research to develop vaccines against various forms of cancer. The research from Washington University was recently published in the journal Nature. One of the problems with any cancer treatment is that it is a complicated disease, and any cancers from two individuals may be significantly different even if they are technically the same kind of cancer. What works for one patient may have little effect on another. What makes this approach novel is that it is a form of personalized medicine, and the methodology is using the patient’s own immune system to attack their own specific cancer. Here is Catherine’s summary:

Vaccines are hugely important in life today. Vaccines for the chicken pox and polio are administered and help people not become patients with the virus. A vaccine is administered to patients and alerts the patents immune system to attack that virus when it comes in contact with it. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been in the process of developing a vaccine for people with cancer. This vaccine works with the immune system to recognize the cancer cells in the body and destroy them. Each vaccine is personalized to each patient and their cancer.

Within the study patients with metastatic melanoma were evaluated and studies continue to be worked on in breast, brain, lung, and head and neck cancers. The vaccine is used and is able to recognize the cancer cells in the body to destroy them. The study originated in simulations, cultures and then in animals to test for their success. Mice were used as an example and the personalized vaccine cured 90% of their muscle cancer in an advanced stage.

To create this “personalized vaccine” DNA is taken from the patents normal tissue and from the cancerous tumor tissue. Researches then sequence the DNA of each to identify the differences or the mutant part of the cancer DNA.  This information is key to create the vaccine, the mutant genome is unique to the cancer and is the identifier for the vaccine and the immune system to fight against. So parts of the mutant genome is put in the vaccine.

This type of treatment is immune based and has been found to be successful in multiple cases. The cancer works by turning the T cells off in the body so the cancer is not attacked or destroyed by the body’s own immune system. Treatment that turns on the T cells can wreak havoc in the body and can attack cancer cells and healthy tissues. Chemotherapy is similar to this and it is clear that the treatment causes the body to attack more than what it needs to. This is evident through the loss of hair and bone density. The treatment in this study is more specific to just the cancer cells because of the DNA identity is involved.

The research shows that with the personalized vaccine it can safely attack the cancer and the T cells would be activated but only in regards to the cancer cells. This is so important for patients who are already immune comprised and wouldn’t be able to handle the immune system attacking the body more. These vaccines are specific and have been tested to cure advanced stages of cancer.

Vaccines have so much to offer in regards to multiple viruses and diseases but cancer is a whole other level. The research provides people with another option, a safer option to treat cancer. These personalized vaccines have a lot to offer but still has more research to be done.


About ycpmicro

My name is David Singleton, and I am an Associate Professor of Microbiology at York College of Pennsylvania. My main course is BIO230, a course taken by allied-health students at YCP. Views on this site are my own.

Posted on December 4, 2014, in Guest Post. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I agree that a cancer vaccine would be very beneficial to the modern day world. Unlike chemotherapy, the vaccine would only attack the cancer cells and would not attack the healthy cells, which would be advantageous because chemotherapy leads to adverse effects to the body. As far as challenges for the vaccine, I believe that this treatment could potentially be costly and not be realistic for the average middle-class citizen.

    Overall, I truly believe that the medical world should continue to pursue this possibility. I have lost a close family member to the wrath of cancer and there is nothing more that I’d like to see than a cure for cancer.

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