A vaccine that has the potential to eliminate all traces of cancer has been revealed by scientists.
The team at Stanford University injected minute amounts of the vaccine into mice and found that all forms of cancer were destroyed—even those that arose spontaneously.
With just one injection, the body’s defenses attack all other tumors that may exist.
The scientists injected two agents directly into tumors, causing the body’s immune system to fight the cancer.
“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” senior author Ronald Levy, M.D., professor of oncology, said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
The treatment could have wide-reaching implications for cancer therapy and doesn’t have the side effects often seen in other kinds of treatments.
The new research follows immunotherapy approaches that all have downsides such as difficult-to-handle side effects, high cost, or lengthy treatment times.
‘Amazing, Bodywide Effects’
Levy said, “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”
Levy’s method works by reactivating cancer-specific T cells that play a central role in immunity.
T cells recognize the abnormal proteins often present in cancer cells and attack them. But as the tumor grows, it often finds ways to suppress the T cells.
The two agents that Levy injected were firstly a short stretch of DNA that works with nearby immune cells to “amplify the expression” of a receptor on the surface of T cells.
Secondly, an antibody binds to this receptor, activating the T cells so that they attack the cancer cells.
And because the agents are injected directly into the cancerous tumor, they are prescreened to recognize only cancer-specific proteins.
“This is a very targeted approach,” Levy said. “Only the tumor that shares the protein targets displayed by the treated site is affected.
“We’re attacking specific targets without having to identify exactly what proteins the T cells are recognizing,” he said.
Remarkably, these newly activated T cells then leave the original tumor to find and destroy other identical tumors throughout the body.
The Stanford team’s approach has so far only been tested on mice, but the results have been startlingly positive, with 87 out of 90 mice cured of cancer. Although the cancer returned in three of the mice, they were cured after a second treatment.
Similar results were found in mice with breast, colon, and melanoma tumors.
Levy is now recruiting 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma to trial the treatment. If successful, he believes it could treat many types of tumors.
It could, for example, be used prior to surgical removal of tumors as a way to prevent reoccurrence of the cancer.
“I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system,” Levy said.