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Cancer vaccine implant success in mice

3 December 2009

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Category: Research & medical benefits

mouse–lab.jpgA cancer ‘vaccine' which can be implanted under the skin and instructs the body to attack tumour cells has proved successful in experiments with mice.

Cancers often manage to survive in the body by evading the natural immune response. This new implant works by ‘reprogramming' the immune system to attack tumour cells more efficiently, in this case skin cancer cells responsible for melanoma.

Conventionally, cancer vaccines work by removing cells from the body, treating them, and then reintroducing them. This can be inefficient, however, as the majority of re-injected cells will die before taking effect.

This new technique, which takes the form of an implant the size of a fingernail, releases chemicals called cytokines which act as ‘recruiters' of dendritic cells - the messengers of the immune system. These in turn send signals to T-cells in the immune system which track down and attack tumour cells.

Although other cancer vaccines are already in development, the researchers behind this study believe the new technology will be more efficient and less cumbersome than other vaccine treatments currently in clinical trials.

Unlike chemotherapy, the system is specially designed to target tumour cells, so collateral damage to healthy cells is minimised. Other advantages of the vaccine are that it should offer permanent, body-wide resistance to cancer cells - thus minimising the chances of relapse.