Researchers Show Possibilities Of Vaccination Against Cancer

According to new research, it is possible to prepare the immunity system against certain proteins called neoantigens beforehand to increase the response of the T cells and shrink cancer cells before they mature.

A study published in the Cell says, researchers from the MIT and Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research have managed to prove that it is possible to vaccinate against certain cancers like Melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer.

Tyler Jacks, Ph.D., a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, and the senior author of the study said, "This study highlights the importance of exploring the details of immune responses against cancer deeply. We can now see that not all anticancer immune responses are created equal and that vaccination can unleash a potent response against a target that was otherwise effectively ignored."

According to the article, malignant tumors usually create an "immunosuppressive environment " around them to suppress the population of T cells, the cells responsible for attacking the malignant cells and stopping the growth of cancer. The suppression of T-cells results in unchecked growth of the tumor cells. The researchers have understood that there are certain neoantigen proteins that stimulate the reaction of T-cells. Therefore, creating personalized vaccines by collecting certain proteins from the patients can rejuvenate the immunity system and increase the chances of cure from cancer.

However, the process is yet to bear significant success. Megan Burger, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at MIT, is the lead author of the study, said, "These therapies work amazingly in a subset of patients, but the vast majority still don't respond very well. A lot of the research in our lab is aimed at trying to understand why that is and what we can do therapeutically to get more of those patients responding."

The process targets preparing the T-cells against the suppressive neoantigens of the tumor cells to increase the response. Berger added, "If you vaccinate against antigens that have suppressed responses, you can unleash those T-cell responses. Trying to identify these suppressed responses and specifically targeting them might improve patient responses to vaccine therapies."

Berger also stated that when the mice were vaccinated with neoantigens weakly bond to the T cells, the results are better. The vaccination with suppressed neoantigens also introduced a type of T cell that stays active and continues to fuel the anti-tumor response, leading to a long-term cure control against the cells.

Upon achieving satisfactory results, the doctors are planning to combine the vaccination strategy with checkpoint inhibitors to make the T cells attack tumors even after getting exhausted. While the vaccination strategy has been present, the FDA is yet to approved the usage of this method. If successful, the vaccination strategy will open a new window for cancer treatment and cure.

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