In a new cancer treatment, doctors are making the tumors work against cancer. By injecting the vaccine directly into a tumor, it stimulates the immune system to fight cancer cells.
The innovative approach to cancer treatment, which essentially turns a tumor into a "cancer vaccine factory," could have a great impact on treating different types of the disease in the future.
This experimental treatment is already showing promise in lymphoma patients who were part of a small clinical trial, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Turning Tumors Into 'Vaccine Factories'
The treatment involves delivering a series of immune stimulants on a single tumor site of the patient. The first stimulant simply recruits dendritic cells, a type of immune cells, while the second stimulant activates these dendritic cells to order T cells to start attacking cancer cells.
In a press release from Mount Sinai, the researchers call it an "immune army" that learns to recognize the characteristics of tumor cells, so the army can destroy it all over the body. In a sense, the tumor becomes a "cancer vaccine factory."
"[We're] seeing tumors all throughout the body melting away," Joshua Brody, MD, lead author and Director of the Lymphoma Immunotherapy Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, describes to Live Science.
While the novel "in situ vaccine" treatment is not strictly a vaccine, which often refers to treatments that offer immunity for a long time, it is a type of immunotherapy.
Treatment Shows Potential, Especially Paired With Another Type Of Immunotherapy
Following laboratory tests of the in situ vaccine, the researchers from Mount Sinai began clinical trials that involved 11 patients with lymphoma.
While not all of the patients responded to the treatment, a number of them had full remission ranging from months to years. These results are positive enough to surmise that this particular treatment shows significant promise. It is currently undergoing clinical trials for patients with breast, head, and neck cancer.
"The in situ vaccine approach has broad implications for multiple types of cancer," Brody says in a statement. "This method could also increase the success of other immunotherapies such as checkpoint blockade."
Laboratory tests on mice showed that the in situ vaccine boosted the success of another type of immunotherapy known as checkpoint blockade.
To explore the seemingly synergistic relationship between the two immunotherapies, researchers are currently conducting trials on the in situ vaccine with checkpoint blockade drugs.
Testing of the in situ vaccine in the laboratory is also ongoing for liver and ovarian cancer.