A growing number of new immunotherapies use the body’s immune system to fight tumors are showing unprecedented success in halting advanced cancer and prolonging the lives of some patients. Personalized vaccines are particularly promising, and designed to:
- Destroy any cancer cells still in the body after other treatments have ended (has memory)
- Prevent the cancer from coming back
- Stop a tumor from growing or spreading
What are Personalized Vaccines?
A personalized vaccine is an immunotherapy for treating existing cancers, as opposed to preventing them. It passes information about the cancer cells to the immune system, allowing it to recognize the cancer cells as foreign bodies and attack them. This information describes antigens that only exist on the cancer cells, which uniquely identifies them to the immune system.
The techniques for developing personalized vaccines may be classified into whole tumor and peptide approaches.
The whole tumor approach requires living cancer cells, which targets the complete set of unique immunogenic antigens for that particular tumor. This approach is the most effective because it’s the most personalized, but it requires access to a tumor preserved in the right format.
The peptide approach involves studying dead cancer cells to predict its distinctive characteristics that may or may not be immunologically relevant. It is significantly less effective than the whole tumor approach, but simpler to design. Peptide vaccines can be designed to target common mutation shared by a population of patients (for example the NY-ESO mutation found in 30% of lung cancer patients), or based on more sophisticated analysis that focuses on mutations found in the cancer cells but not the blood (referred to as neoantigen vaccines).
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Several hospitals and research centers around the world are already using personalized vaccines with significant success in certain indications, such as Brain, Breast, Colon, Lymphoma, Melanoma, Ovarian, Lung, Prostate, Renal cell carcinoma, and others…
Any patient with cancer is a good candidate for personalized therapeutic vaccines, whether it’s in an early or advanced stage.
Vaccines have no extreme side effects (like chemo’s toxic side effects), and therefore offer patients a good quality of life.
Here is what John had to say…
Interesting fact: So what does Cold and Hot Tumors mean?
A “cold” tumor is one that the body doesn’t recognize as a foreign object. The T cells that the immune system uses to fight off invaders aren’t able to penetrate these tumors. In contrast, a “hot” tumor is one where T cells recognize the location of and are actively fighting the cancer cells.