We all know that Cancer is a genetic disease that really can’t be cured, but what if we could develop a Vaccine, like one for a virus, that would target the cells around it to target the cancer? That’s what Professor Darrell Irvine at MIT and his students are trying to accomplish.
Professor Irvine is working on a vaccine that boosts T-Cells, which is a lymphocyte created in the Thymus along with Epithelial cells to boost immune response. The technique is called CAR-T Cell therapy, and it works by boosting anti-tumor T Cell populations, and using these enhanced populations to fight solid tumors. Before Dr. Irvine’s work, the therapy was unable to target any type of cancer that wasn’t Leukemia. The therapy had a difficult time working on solid tumors because they would attach the T cells to an antigen on the surface of B cells, but the immunosuppressive environment created by the tumor would kill the cells before they could reach the tumor.
But, the researchers at MIT decided to give a vaccine to the lymph nodes, which are host to an abundance of immune cells, instead. Dr. Irvine’s hypothesis was that attaching them to the lymph nodes rather than B cells would give them the proper priming cues to prevent them from dying when they reached the tumor, and he was right. To actually get the vaccine to the lymph nodes the researchers used a technique MIT had developed a few years prior where they attach the vaccine to a lipid tail, which would then bond with albumin, a protein found in the bloodstream, and would then get an uber straight to the lymph nodes. In research in mice, the vaccine has been shown to drastically increase T cell response, and two weeks after treatment and being given a booster vaccine the CAR-T cells made up nearly 65% of the T cells found in the mice. This boost in T cell population resulted in complete obliteration of breast, melanoma, and glioblastoma tumors in 60% of mice.
This success rate is unlike any other treatment for Cancer currently available, and since it is given in a vaccine, memory T cells will be able to detect tumors in the future and destroy them before they become dangerous, just like how regular vaccines work. Between the success rate and the fact that the vaccine will be able to destroy future tumors, there is nothing really like this around for Cancer treatment, and I’m very excited to see the possibilities this has. And the fact that something like a vaccine, which is only capable to treat viruses, can possibly help fight against a genetic disease is also very intriguing.