Targeting a protein could be key to suppressing breast cancer metastasis
Delivering a cancer vaccine to the immune system involves various stages. First, the patient is inoculated with the vaccine subcutaneously. The vaccine will thus travel to the lymph nodes, where there are lots of immune cells. Once there, the vaccine is expected to penetrate dendritic cells, which act as a kind of alert mechanism. If the vaccine stimulates them correctly, the dendritic cells present specific antigens to cancer-fighting T-cells, a process that activates and trains the T-cells to attack them.
The procedure appears simple, but is extremely hard to put into practice. Because they are very small, the components of a vaccine tend to disperse or be absorbed in the blood stream before reaching the lymph nodes.
To overcome that obstacle, Li Tang has developed a system that chemically binds the vaccine's parts together to form a larger entity. The new vaccine, named Polycondensate Neoepitope (PNE), consists of neoantigens (mutated antigens specific to the tumor to be attacked) and an adjuvant. When combined within a solvent, the components naturally bind together, forming an entity that is too large to be absorbed by blood vessels and that travels naturally to the lymph nodes.
Once inside a dendritic cell, the vaccine components separate again. This enables the dendritic cell to present the right antigens to the T-cells, causing a powerful immune response.
This new vaccine, combined with a highly advanced analysis of each patient's neoantigens, should allow cancer patients' immune systems to be activated in a personalized and safe way." Li Tang, EPFL's School of Engineering
The team is still perfecting the stage at which the tumor-specific antigens are detected. "This identification stage is just as vital," concludes Li Tang. "Since these neoantigens aren't present in healthy cells, accurate identification will allow us to target tumor cells very precisely, without any toxicity in healthy tissue." Source: Journal reference:
Wei, L, et al. (2020) Redox-Responsive Polycondensate Neoepitope for Enhanced Personalized Cancer Vaccine. ACS Central Science . doi.org/10.1021/acscentsci.9b01174 .
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