Scientists are rejoicing this week, as they say new research could yield the very first step towards personalized vaccines against various cancers.
This promising new treatment is a vaccine made of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) which was shown to protect mice from tumors. iPS are adult cells that have been reverted to stem cells, making them quite similar to the types of stem cells we might find in an embryo.
Of course, stem cells are remarkable because they possess the potential to transform into any type of body tissue.
In the study, scientists found that iPS cells can work as a type of anti-cancer vaccine because, in fact, they are very much like cancer cells in that they resemble developmentally immature progenitor cells. These cells are do not have the growth restrictions that would be built into the mature cells that typically make up boy tissue. Thus, when you inject genetically-matched (but non-replicating) iPS cells into a recipient, they can safely expose the body’s natural immune system to various types of cancer-specific targets.
According to said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, director of Stanford’s Cardiovascular Institute, “We’ve learned that iPS cells are very similar on their surface to tumor cells.” Also a professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, he goes on to say, “When we immunized an animal with genetically matching iPS cells, the immune system could be primed to reject the development of tumors in the future. Pending replication in humans, our findings indicate these cells may one day serve as a true patient-specific cancer vaccine.”
In addition, lead author Nigel Kooreman, MD, comments, “These cells, as a component of our proposed vaccine, have strong immunogenic properties that provoke a systemwide, cancer-specific immune response.” A former postdoctoral scholar and now a surgery resident in the Netherlands, Kooreman adds, “We believe this approach has exciting clinical potential.”
Finally, he concludes, “This approach is particularly powerful because it allows us to expose the immune system to many different cancer-specific epitopes simultaneously. Once activated, the immune system is on alert to target cancers as they develop throughout the body.”
And Wu also says, “Although much research remains to be done, the concept itself is pretty simple. We would take your blood, make iPS cells and then inject the cells to prevent future cancers. I’m very excited about the future possibilities.”