In Mainz, Germany there is a university named Johannes Gutenberg University. A group of researchers in that university have come up with a universal vaccine that can cure cancer. Actually, the vaccine has already been tested in mice and there have been some limited trials on humans. Interestingly enough, the universal vaccine looks promising so far.
This customized vaccine makes use of the body’s own immune system (immunotherapy) for fighting this deadly ailment. It is a known fact that cancer cells have same behavior as normal cells. They act and interact in the same way as any other cell in the body. This is the reason why the immune system of the body doesn’t really attack the cancer cells. The universal vaccine uses antigen that are specific to cancer and tricks the immune system into attacking those cancer cells by seeking out any tumors in the body. This vaccine can be used only on those people who have already been diagnosed with cancer.
The Experiments with Universal Vaccine
The scientists ran laboratory experiments on mice. The mice used were the once who were deliberately engineered with cancer cells, in particular lung cancer. What the scientists did was that they picked up genetic RNA code of the tumor and placed the code inside a fatty acid membrane’s nanoparticles. In specific, those fatty acid membranes were selected which had negative charge.
The customized vaccine was then injected into the mice into places from where the vaccine could travel to anywhere in the body, for example, the lymph node, bone marrow or the spleen. Once inside the body, the customized vaccine would then meet up with dendritic immune cells.
Once this union happened, the dendritic immune cells were then stimulated, releasing a chemical known as interferon-a. This chemical called interferon-a in turn activated the white blood cells (also known as the T-cells), which then went out seeking those cells which have the genetic RNA code of that was put inside the nanoparticles of fatty acid membrane.
This way, the very own immune systems of the mice were used as a defense against the cancer cells in their body. Astonishingly, the mice became absolutely cancer-free in just 20 days after receiving the customized universal vaccine.
According to the German team of scientists,
“(Such) vaccines are fast and inexpensive to produce, and virtually any tumor antigen can be encoded by RNA. Thus, the nanoparticulate RNA immunotherapy approach introduced here may be regarded as a universally applicable novel vaccine class for cancer immunotherapy.”
Why Is It Called Universal Vaccine?
According to the researchers, the vaccine is called universal vaccine because obtaining RNA samples is very easy for every type of cancer that is present out there. So, once the RNA samples are collected, the vaccine can be easily customized with the necessary code and can be used for fighting cancer.
Human Trials with Universal Vaccine for Cancer Cure
The mice trials were really successful. So, now it was time for human trials. A limited number of trials were conducted to find out how safe the vaccine was. The end results were very satisfactory. Three patients suffering with melanoma were selected and small doses of the customized vaccine were applied to each one of them.
Of course the doses were very low and hence, satisfactory therapeutic benefits were not seen. However, the immune systems of the patients did manage to get stimulated and anti-cancer benefits were generated, though limited.
One of the patients who received the universal vaccine experienced a slight reduction in the tumor size. For the second patient, the tumor was completely removed and 7 months from the time the tumor was removed, the patient remained cancer-free. For the third patient, introduction of the vaccine made the patient clinically stable even though the patient had 8 tumors across lungs and skin.
Future of the Universal Vaccine
So far the human trials have been limited and the group of scientists are required to wait for 12 months before they can take in the three test subjects once again for taking the next big step. Only this time, the vaccine will be applied to its full strength. Only after the results of the full-strength vaccine application it can be said whether the universal vaccine is a success or a failure.