A team of researchers announces the development of a new vaccine that can cure melanoma in mice, stimulating the immune system to attack the tumor. This 100% effective experimental vaccine in rodents could then lead to much more effective immunotherapy against aggressive tumors.
Finding a cancer vaccine is a bit like the holy grail of medicine. In this sense, a new step has been taken. An experimental treatment aimed at “boosting” the immune system of mice by producing more leucocytes has just proved its effectiveness. A small bonus, and not least: this new therapy can also fight against the recurrence of the cancer. “This co-therapy has produced a complete curative response in the treatment of melanoma,” says one of the researchers, Dale Boger, of the Scripps Research Institute in California. Just like a vaccine can cause the body to fight external pathogens, this vaccine causes the immune system to look for the tumor.”
The researchers explain in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to have isolated a molecule – called Diprovocim – able to bind to an immune receptor to guide our defenses to tumor sites. They then tested the design of a vaccine on mice with an aggressive form of melanoma. The mice were then divided into three groups: eight received the cancer vaccine, eight received the cancer vaccine that presented the new molecule, and eight others received a third vaccine containing this time another adjuvant called alum. Each rodent received two intramuscular injections away from the tumor: a first one the day after the onset of melanoma, and a second seven days later.
After 54 days, the result was that the survival rate of the first group was 0%, that of the third group was 25%, and that of the second group was 100%. These effects also persisted after the cancer, and by simulating a new attack of the disease the researchers realized that it could not re-appear. There could be no recurrence.
The researchers are now aiming to further test this new vaccine on other mice, while exploring the possibility of developing a viable compound for possible clinical trials. The molecule is easy to synthesize in the laboratory, so it could – if the tests are conclusive – be produced on a large scale.