A new cancer vaccine that activates T cells in tumors was found to be incredibly effective in mice, completely eliminating tumors in 97% of the mice tested, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers found.
When researchers injected tiny amounts of two immune-stimulating agents into physical tumors, all traces of cancer, "including distant, untreated metastases," were totally eliminated in 87 of the 90 mice tested, notes Stanford Medicine News Center.
"Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal," said professor of oncology and senior author of the study Ronald Levy, MD.
"When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body," Levy added. "This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn't require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells."
Those involved with the study, which was published in Science Translational Medicine on January 31, are hopeful the two agents could be used as a future cancer therapy, one with far less destructive side effects than something like chemotherapy.
One of the used agents is already approved for use in humans and the other agent has been tested "in several unrelated clinical trials," explains Stanford Medicine.
Moreover, lymphoma patients are already being recruited for a clinical trial to test the two-agent vaccine. Per the news release:
The current clinical trial is expected to recruit about 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma. If successful, Levy believes the treatment could be useful for many tumor types. He envisions a future in which clinicians inject the two agents into solid tumors in humans prior to surgical removal of the cancer as a way to prevent recurrence due to unidentified metastases or lingering cancer cells, or even to head off the development of future tumors that arise due to genetic mutations like BRCA1 and 2.
"I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system," stated Levy.
Levy is highly respected in the field of cancer immunotherapy. "Research in his laboratory led to the development of rituximab, one of the first monoclonal antibodies approved for use as an anticancer treatment in humans," says the news release. The lead author of the study is instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, a 2012 Kaye innovation award recipient.