In February this year, the journal Science Translational Medicine published a very promising material: an experimental vaccine against cancer has shown high efficiency in tests on laboratory mice. Even more joyful news for many will probably be the information that now this vaccine is moving to the stage of clinical trials in humans.
Researchers at the Stanford University Medical Center have found that injections of two immunostimulating agents directly into a cancerous tumor lead to rapid recognition and destruction of cancer cells by protective T-lymphocytes. However, the most interesting moment in this experiment was that the immune system begins to destroy not only cancer cells within the tumor, but also those cancer cells that have managed to spread throughout the body. It was this discovery that served as the beginning of the development of a special vaccine capable of resisting the occurrence of cancerous tumors.
You might think that the researchers made the mistake of choosing the term "vaccine" for the method they developed to combat cancer. But, if you think about it, we are still dealing with a provocation of the immune system, achieved through injection. That is why scientists call their discovery the "cancer vaccine" and nothing else. Typically, T cells are ineffective against cancer cells because they simply cannot distinguish them from healthy cells. This is because cancer cells release chemicals that make them invisible to the immune system.
Current cancer therapies using antibodies use highly specific mutations to track down specific cancer cells. Accordingly, they are effective only against certain types of cancer. Recently approved CAR therapy also modifies T cells at the genetic level, and this requires an individual approach to each individual patient. Unlike the above methods, the Stanford scientists' method is more versatile, moreover, it destroys not only cancer cells inside a tumor, but also metastatic cells.
Speaking about the effectiveness of the new technique, it is impossible to do without numbers: to date, scientists have managed to cure 97% of laboratory mice from lymphoma. Clinical trials in humans with non-Hodginian B-cell lymphomas are now beginning. Project leader Dr. Ronald Levy plans to recruit two control groups with a total of 35 people by the end of this year. The main goal of clinical trials is to calculate the optimal dose of the drug, as well as to identify the side effects of the new treatment method.