New type of cancer vaccine bypasses tumor defenses in animal studies

New type of cancer vaccine bypasses tumor defenses in animal studies

One of the many lessons the world has been reminded of in the past few years is how powerful vaccines are. After all, prevention is better than cure, as the sixteenth-century philosopher Erasmus said—though, as we’ve discovered, vaccines can be good at both.

This is especially true with cancer vaccines – a relatively new field of medicine that some experts call the “cancer miracle.” And according to a new animal study, published today in Nature, a new cancer vaccine may be about to change the game yet again, providing “preventive immunity even against tumors with common escape mutations.”

In popular culture, a “cure for cancer” is often considered the gold standard of scientific progress. But actually rendering that audio clip is more difficult than it sounds, since what we call “cancer” is actually a broad term that covers more than 200 different diseases, each with distinct subtypes and variations as unique as the people who suffer from them.

“Cancer is a complex disease, and we will not have a single treatment for it,” explained Dr. Matt Lamm, director of scientific communications at Worldwide Cancer Research, who was not involved in the study. Each type and subtype of cancer requires a “unique approach to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment,” he noted, and even then, the disease is “highly adaptive…cancer can spread to other organs, and it can become resistant to treatments that are initially available.”

That’s why, for years — much longer than you think, in fact — some researchers have looked for a way to teach the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, a technique known as immunotherapy. The world’s first cancer vaccine was released in 2006, to protect against HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer and various types of head and neck cancers, and recent years have seen an explosion of new vaccines and the over-personalization of cancer all over the body.

But even these methods have their drawbacks. Most cancer vaccines target peptide antigens [specific protein cells expressed on the surface of tumors]The authors of the new paper wrote, “This is why these cancer vaccines have been designed to suit every disease and person – the precise nature of each antigen, and its ability to stimulate a patient’s immune response, is simply too versatile to make a universal cancer vaccine a reality.”

But the new vaccine gets around that problem, the authors write, by “inducing[ing] A coordinated attack by diverse combinations of T cells and natural killer (NK) cells.” These are two of our bodies’ first defenses against disease: Natural killer cells have been specifically named for their ability to hunt down cancer cells without any preparation by antigens. A vaccine fires these cells into battle Against two types of tumor surface proteins, known as MICA and MICB proteins, that are expressed by a variety of human cancers.

Now, for now, the vaccine is just a simulation of what our bodies will do naturally when they have a tumor — but then it does something very special. Normally, when T and NK cells are sent to deal with cancer, they attack it by attaching themselves to the MICA and MICB proteins on the surface of the tumor – and the tumor usually responds normally by eliminating the affected proteins using a process called “slicing” or “mitosis”. But the new vaccine prevents this: “Vaccinate-induced antibodies increase the density of MICA/B proteins on the surface of cancer cells by inhibiting protein secretion,” the research paper explains, stimulating T and NK cells to enter and launch an orderly attack.

While the vaccine has not yet been tested in humans, researchers say they have demonstrated effectiveness and safety in both mice and non-human primates.

“In particular, this vaccine maintains its efficacy against … cytotoxic T-cell-resistant tumors through the coordinated action of natural killer cells and CD4.+ T cells,” the team writes. “The vaccine is also effective in a clinically important setting: Immunization after surgical removal of highly metastatic primary tumors prevents the subsequent growth of metastases.”

With such promising preclinical results, the next step is to trial the vaccine in human cancer patients — and “the first human clinical trial is being planned,” the paper notes. He adds that the vaccine may also work well in combination with radiotherapy, because “DNA damage enhances MICA/B expression by cancer cells.”

“We’ve been through many models of cancer, so this is coming back to a new approach,” nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung told Global News in 2018. The second model looked at the genetic defects of cancer, and it was an approach that went nowhere and returned us a lot of money and about 20 years.

“Now we’re in the third paradigm with cancer vaccines and it’s very exciting.”

2022-05-25 15:13:00

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