New Cancer Vaccine Developed in Mice
Plastic implant eradicates melanoma tumors in mice
A team of Harvard bioengineers and biologists say that they have developed a cancer vaccine that eradicates melanoma tumors in mice and slows their reoccurrence.
The method detailed in the study, published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, used a miniscule plastic disk implant carrying the vaccine to recognize and eliminate tumor cells.
The new vaccine specifically attacks cancerous cells, avoiding the collateral damage on healthy cells that other cancer treatments often cause. This approach may also build long-term resistance within the immune system, the researchers said.
“[Traditional cancer treatments] are very invasive and destructive to other cells in the body,” said Omar A. Ali, a researcher at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and one of the co-authors of the study. “They do not adequately treat or cure cancer and don’t do anything to stop reoccurrences.”
Ali said that the new vaccine protects against the recurrence of melanoma, though the data supporting this claim remains unpublished.
“When we inject cancerous cells, memory of the immune system is sustained,” Ali said. “Tumors grow at slower rate and some mice don’t develop tumors at all.”
Using bioengineering techniques to target existing cancer cells in the body is not only easier but also less expensive than with more traditional methods, according to SEAS bioengineering professor David J. Mooney, who is also a co-author of the study.
“From a practical point of view, there is no need to manipulate and modify cells outside the body,” Mooney said.
Though this cancer vaccine is limited to use in mice, researchers at InCytu, Inc.—the company that owns the license for the rights of the vaccine—are looking to extend research to test the vaccine on other types of cancer and expand to human clinical trials.
The company is currently in discussion with the Food and Drug Administration and hopes to start human clinical trials in a year, said Dwaine F. Emerich, InCytu’s chief scientific officer and another co-author of the study.
Though the vaccine is still under development, the researchers say they are hopeful that the technique has broader clinical applications.
“This may directly lead to a cancer therapy, but it also leads to a blueprint on a molecular and cellular scale of what is needed in a immune response to generate the regression of tumors,” Mooney said.
But the authors stressed that more research is necessary before the vaccine can be used in humans.
“We don’t want to give this type of impression that this farther along than it is,” said Glenn Dranoff, one of the study’s co-authors and a Harvard Medical School professor. “It needs to be underscored that this is a mouse model.”