Personalized Cancer Vaccine One Step Closer
Researchers in Germany say they may have moved one step closer to creating vaccines that can train immune systems to fight cancer based on the specific genetic mutations of a person's tumors.
In the quest to develop "vaccines on demand" that can targetted at an individual's tumor, scientists at TRON, a biopharmaceutical research institute, focused on bringing more precision and speed to the technique of immunotherapy--training a person's immune cells to recognize and attack tumors,
One challenge that researchers addressed was to produce a template of a tumor type from the cancer cell mutations that could then be fine-tuned to incorporate genetic changes specific to each patient. Another challenge was to speed up the process to identify the most effective drug combination before the cancer has a chance to spread.
Researchers addressed the first challenge by identifying the genetic fingerprints for three different types of tumors (skin, colon, and breast cancer). They found that up to 20 percent of all the mutations in a tumor can potentially trigger an immune response. The second challenge was to deliver a specific vaccine catered to a patient in sufficient time, and they found that once the mutations have been identified, customized treatment can be created pretty quickly. They found that by focusing on ten mutations that attack different points on the tumor, and by using messenger RNA to carry the mutations, they could deliver the personalized cancer treatment effectively.
The next step is to test this approach to "personalized" cancer treatment in humans. The team plans to test their findings in an international clinical study of malignant melanoma and also in other clinical trials.