The first cancer vaccine that works

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Cancer vaccines may come sooner than you think. And each vaccine will be tailor-made for a specific kind of cancer. This isn't just a theory anymore. It's been done.

A group of medical researchers in the U.K. and the U.S. have successfully cured prostate cancer in mice using a vaccine made partly from healthy human prostate DNA, delivered inside virus shells. This treatment could come to replace toxic chemotherapies, curing cancer with no painful side-effects.

The researchers injected the mice with virus shells (the outer skin of viruses) packed with "libraries" of DNA made up partly of DNA taken from healthy prostate. The researchers believed that delivering the DNA inside viruses would essentially trick the mouse immune system, sending it into overdrive to produce antibodies tailor-made to attack cancers of the prostate. And their theory turned out to be correct. The mice produced antibodies which attacked their cancerous tumors, effectively eliminating the cancer. Because this vaccine's DNA libraries were tailor-made for prostate cancer, however, it also prevented the mice from producing antigens that attacked other organs in their bodies.


According to the Mayo Clinic, where some of the research took place:

All infections, allergens and tissues, including tumors, have a unique fingerprint called an antigen — a molecular protein tag that triggers a response from the body's immune system. Dr. [Richard] Vile deployed the human vaccine prostate cancer antigens through the mutated VSV vector to raise a full-on assault from the mice's T-cells. After exposure to the mutated viruses, the animals' immune systems recognized the antigens expressed in the virus and produced a potent immune response to attack the prostate tumors.

"Nobody really knows how many antigens the immune system can really see on tumor cells," says Dr. Vile. "By expressing all of these proteins in highly immunogenic viruses, we increased their visibility to the immune system. The immune system now thinks it is being invaded by the viruses, which are expressing cancer-related antigens that should be eliminated."


The big question now is whether this therapy could work in humans. Clinical trials that would lead to using this therapy on humans could begin in two years.

Read the full scientific article via Nature Medicine.

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