Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine are reporting encouraging results from a recent melanoma study. Administering personalized vaccines to existing cancer patients triggered a clear and strong immune response.
For the study, three patients with advanced melanoma were given a tailored vaccine made from mutated proteins that researchers predicted would jump-start a powerful immune response.
It appears they were onto something.
“The tumor antigens we inserted into the vaccines provoked a broad response among the immune system’s killer T cells responsible for destroying tumors,” senior author Gerald Linette, M.D., a Washington University medical oncologist, said in a statement. “Our results are preliminary, but we think the vaccines have therapeutic potential based on the breadth and remarkable diversity of the T-cell response.”
Researchers administered the vaccine to patients with melanoma who’d had their tumors surgically removed, but whose cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes. They say this makes these patients particularly susceptible to cancer recurrence.
This isn’t the first time experts have enlisted a patient’s own immune system to fight melanoma. One 2013 UCLA study reported positive results regarding a drug that blocks a protein melanoma cells use to evade cancer-killing T cells.
As far as cancer vaccines go, another 2014 study (also out of Washington University School of Medicine) reported encouraging findings with a potential breast cancer vaccine. In that study, it took longer for the disease to progress among women who’d received the vaccine.