In February of this year, the journal Science Translational Medicine published very promising material: an experimental cancer vaccine showed high efficacy in tests on laboratory mice. Even more joyful news for many will undoubtedly be the information that now this vaccine passes to the stage of clinical trials in humans.
Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center found that injections consisting of two immunostimulating agents directly into a cancerous tumor lead to the rapid recognition and destruction of cancer cells by protective T lymphocytes. However, the most exciting moment in this experiment was that the immunity begins to destroy not only cancer cells within the tumor but also those cancer cells that managed to spread through the body. It was this discovery that was the beginning of the development of a different vaccine capable of resisting the onset of cancer tumors.
One might think that the researchers made a mistake by choosing the term “vaccine” for their advanced method of confronting oncological diseases. But, if you think about it, we still deal with the provocation of the immune system, achieved by injection. That’s why scientists call their discovery “a vaccine against cancer” and nothing else. As a rule, T-cells are ineffective against cancer cells, because they just cannot distinguish them from healthy cells. The thing is that cancer cells secrete chemicals that allow them to remain invisible to immunity.
Existing cancer treatment methods using antibodies use the basis of highly specific mutations to track particular cancer cells. Accordingly, they are effective only against certain types of cancer. Recently approved CAR-therapy also modifies T-cells at the genetic level, and this requires an individual approach to each patient. Unlike the above methods, the method of Stanford scientists is more universal, besides it destroys not only cancer cells inside the tumor, but also metastasizing cells.
Speaking about the effectiveness of the new technique, it is impossible to do without figures: today scientists have managed to cure 97% of laboratory mice of lymphoma. At the moment, clinical trials begin on people suffering from non-Hodgkin’s B-cell lymphomas. The project manager, Dr. Ronald Levy plans to recruit two control groups totaling 35 people by the end of this year. The primary goal of clinical trials is to calculate the optimal dose of the drug, as well as to identify the side effects of the new treatment.