Experimental Vaccine Turns Cancer Cells Against Themselves

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Jan. 5, 2023 -- Researchers are working on an experimental cancer vaccine that turns cancer against cancer.

“Our team has pursued a simple idea: to take cancer cells and transform them into cancer killers and vaccines,” said Khalid Shah, MD, who leads the team at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a statement to Gizmodo.

“Their experimental vaccine candidate uses tumor cells modified to deliver a toxic payload to the rest of the cancer, while also making it easier for the immune system to target and remember the cancer in the future,” Gizmodo wrote.

Initial results, against brain cancer in mice, have been promising.

The study was published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Most cancer vaccines typically treat existing cancers or prevent their return, Gizmodo wrote.

But in the new research, scientists keep the cancer cells alive and modify them. The cells are meant to produce agents that kill tumors and to form other proteins that help the body develop immunity against the cancer.

“We are developing the next generation of autologous and allogeneic engineered tumor cell based vaccines and are hopeful that our therapeutic strategy will have the potential to impact patients by preventing tumor progression, recurrence, and metastasis,” Shah said.

The scientists hope their results, while just a start, could lead to treatment and prevention of many tumors throughout the body. Clinical trials of their vaccine could come in three to five years. Other vaccines are being developed, including some similar to COVID-19 vaccines.