New cancer ‘vaccine’ shows great promise

Cancer immunotherapy Dendritic cell (Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School)

A novel cancer immunotherapy, Flagrp-170, that works like a vaccine has shown promising results in treating metastatic cancer. The cancer ‘vaccine', which was trialled at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, could prevent the development of new metastatic tumours and also train the immune system to prevent cancer relapse.

Cancer immunotherapy works by utilising the body's immune system to attack cancer cells. Cancer cells display antigens so that they appear foreign to the immune system. However, cancer cells can modify their microenvironment surrounding them so that they can suppress the immune system and guard themselves against attack. The molecule used in the new cancer ‘vaccine', Flagrp-170, is able to modify this protective microenvironment and thus promote an immune response against the cancer cells.

Flagrp-170 is a chimeric protein composed of a fragment of flagellin fused to the molecular chaperone glucose-regulated protein 170 (Grp170). The trial, which was performed using animal and cell models of melanoma, prostate and colon tumours, showed that Flagrp-170 was able to convert the immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment to more favourable conditions for antitumor immunity to work. It does this by enhancing the presentation of foreign antigens on the cancer cells, and also activating specialised immune cells including dendritic cells, CD8+ T lymphocytes and natural killer cells. The cytokines IFN-gamma and IL-12 appeared to be particularly central in the Flagrp170-elicited antitumour response.

In the future, Flagrp-170 could be used alone or in combination with conventional cancer therapy. The potential for Flagrp-170 to overcome the cancer's suppression of the immune system is very important for cancer immunotherapy to work in the future.

Are you excited by these results? Do you think this study is a significant step towards successful cancer immunotherapy?

Why not join in our discussion about cancer vaccines on our LinkedIn discussion page.

If you want to hear more about the cancer vaccine landscape overview, including a talk on harnessing the power of the immune system to build strong cancer vaccines, you might be interested in attending the World Vaccine Congress & Expo 2013, 16-18 April 2013, at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center, Washington DC.

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