Cancer > Mayo Clinic Researchers Design Personalized Vaccines to Fight Cancer

Mayo Clinic Researchers Design Personalized Vaccines to Fight Cancer

By Carrie Printz Illustration by Selva Negra

TAPPING INTO THE POWER of vaccines, Mayo Clinic researchers are working to target each patient’s unique cancer.

Drawing on advances in genetic sequencing and data analytics, scientists are developing vaccines that help the body’s immune system recognize and attack cancer cells. Keith Knutson, Ph.D., co-leader of the David F. and Margaret T. Grohne Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center in Florida, is leading the research.

Individualized cancer vaccines are designed to recognize a specific disease-related protein. As the immune system learns to recognize the protein, it can begin to fight it.

To make the vaccines, scientists are homing in on unique tumor protein changes called neoantigens. They are found on the surfaces of cancer cells but do not occur on healthy cells. Because the immune system recognizes neoantigens as foreign, it will attack them.

Researchers create the vaccines by identifying between 20 and 30 protein changes in a person’s cancer. Recently, they combined a personalized vaccine with immunotherapy to treat breast cancer in animal models. The combination increased survival without causing any major side effects.

Dr. Knutson, who is recognized as the Andrew A. and Mary S. Sugg Professor of Cancer Research, and his colleagues hope to launch clinical trials testing the vaccines’ effectiveness for treating and preventing different cancer types in the near future.

Source: Discovery's Edge

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