Cancer Vaccine: Stem Cells Prevented Development Of Tumors In Mice Study

Caitlyn Jenner treated for skin cancer
Induced pluripotent stem cells can train the body's immune system to attack or prevent the development of tumors. Researchers found that tumors in vaccinated mice shrank and completely rejected cancer cells.  ( Georges Gobet | AFP/Getty Images )

Despite advancements in the field of medicine, cancer remains one of the top killers worldwide, causing 8.2 million deaths in 2012.

The prevalence of the disease is driving research on potential cancer vaccines and cure.

Stems Cells For Preventing Development Of Cancer

In a new study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell on Feb. 15, researchers found that induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, can be used to train the body's immune system to attack or prevent tumors.

The study suggests the possibility of vaccinating an individual using his or her own stem cells to prevent the development of many types of cancer.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

iPS cells can be coaxed to develop into many different types of cells or tissues, which can help repair damage caused by disease or trauma.

The results of the new study show of its potentials in preventing cancer. Just like many cancer cells, iPS cells are free from growth restrictions seen in mature cells that make up the body's tissues.

The iPS cells can work as an anti-cancer vaccine because injecting iPS cells that genetically match those of the recipients but do not replicate in the body can prime the immune system to reject the development of tumors in the future.

"These cells, as a component of our proposed vaccine, have strong immunogenic properties that provoke a systemwide, cancer-specific immune response," said study researcher Nigel Kooreman from Stanford University School of Medicine's Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Patient-specific Cancer Vaccine

IPSCs Kooreman and colleagues injected tumor-bearing mice with genetically-identical IPSCs, which have been irradiated so they do not grow uncontrollably into tumors.

After injecting IPSCs and an immune-stimulating agent once a week over a 4-week period, the researchers observed that the immune system of the animals registered IPSC surface proteins and eventually destroyed the matching cancer cells.

The tumors in seven of the vaccinated mice with breast cancer shrank in size and two completely rejected new cancer cells even after these were reintroduced to the animals a year later.

The findings offer evidence of a cancer prevention mechanism and researchers said that iPS cells hold potential as a patient-specific cancer vaccine.

"iPSC vaccine promotes an antigen-specific anti-tumor T cell response," the researchers wrote in their study. "Our data suggest an easy, generalizable strategy for multiple types of cancer that could prove highly valuable in clinical immunotherapy,"

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