Using Plants to Grow Lymphoma Vaccines

Scientists 'Grow' Personalized Vaccines in Tobacco Plants for Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Patients

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 21, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

July 21, 2008 -- Plants may be a powerhouse for researchers making personalized vaccines for patients with follicular lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The basic idea is to use plants as a factory to quickly and inexpensively grow vaccines tailored to each patient's follicular lymphoma.

That approach worked and was safe in a small, preliminary test noted in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

They tested their strategy on 16 follicular lymphoma patients, growing their personalized vaccines in tobacco leaves for three to four months.

Starting about six months after their last round of chemotherapy, the patients got their vaccine in a monthly shot, delivered to their thigh, every month for six months. Some also got shots of a chemical that boosted their immune response.

The point of the study was to see if the plant plan was practical and safe. It was; no side effects were reported and the plants grew the vaccines without messing them up.

More than 70% of the patients had an immune response to their vaccine and 47% had the specific immune response that was sought. But the study wasn't designed to test the effectiveness of the plant plan; further research is needed to see how well those vaccines work.

The researchers included A. A. McCormick of Large Scale Biology Corporation in Vacaville, Calif., which made the vaccines.

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McCormick, A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, July 22, 2008; vol 105: pp. 10131-10136.

News release, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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