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article imageCancer vaccine shows success against tumors

By Tim Sandle     Feb 11, 2018 in Science
Researchers have developed a new vaccine that has shown success against tumors. By injecting tiny amounts of two combined immune-stimulating agents, directly into solid tumors in mice, a study has shown success in eliminating cancer.
The combination of the two immune-stimulating agents has not only been shown to eliminate tumors in the animals; the vaccine can also treat untreated metastases, some distance apart and of different types.
The study comes from Stanford University School of Medicine. The new vaccine could, as trials progress, become the basis of a fast-acting and low-cost cancer therapy. Further work will assess whether there are any adverse side effects prior to human trials. Side-effects can arise from immune stimulation therapies.
Speaking with European Pharmaceutical Review, the lead researcher, Dr Ronald Levy said: “When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body. This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”
With the two agents, one has been approved for use in people; the second is undergoing clinical trials to assess its suitability. These trials are unrelated to the current vaccine. The established agent has arisen from monoclonal antibody work, and it is called rituximab.
Rituximab, sold under the brand name Rituxan, is an injectable agent intended to treat autoimmune diseases and some types of cancer, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, pemphigus vulgaris and myasthenia gravis.
Speaking about the advances in immunotherapy, Dr. Levy adds: “All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice.”
He then adds about his novel approach, which “Uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within a tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”
Cancer immunotherapy refers to the use of the immune system to treat cancer. There are different forms of immunotherapy, categorized as active, passive or hybrid (active and passive). Each approach works on the basis that cancer cells have molecules on their surface that can be detected by the immune system, known as tumor-associated antigens (TAAs). Active immunotherapy directs the immune system to attack tumor cells by targeting TAAs; whereas passive immunotherapies boost existing anti-tumor responses and include the use of monoclonal antibodies.
Dr Levy’s method involves the reactivation of the cancer-specific T cells, which is achieved by injecting microgram amounts of two agents into the tumor site. Some of the tumor-specific activated T cells gravitate from the original tumor and proceed to locate and destroy other identical tumors.
The research has been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The research paper is titled “Eradication of spontaneous malignancy by local immunotherapy.”
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