Harvard Researchers Develop Vaccine to Treat Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Scientists at Harvard's Wyss Institute have developed a solid vaccine that proved effective in tackling blood cancer in mice.
The new vaccine can be combined with chemotherapy to achieve a full and lasting recovery from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a deadly blood cancer that originates in the bone marrow and kills most of its victims within five years. Chemotherapy has been the standard AML treatment for over 40 years, and while it often causes the cancer to go into remission, it rarely completely eliminates the cancerous cells. This led researchers to seek a new treatment to kill AML.
A research team from Harvard University has developed an injectable vaccine that, when combined with standard chemotherapy, caused complete and lasting recovery from and immunity against AML in mice. The study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Co-author Nisarg Shah from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) said in a report published on the university's website: "We have previously developed cancer vaccines against solid tumors, and we were curious to see if this technology would also be effective at treating a blood cancer like AML."
"The promising outcomes of the combination of this vaccine with chemotherapy may translate to human vaccines soon," he added.
Like other vaccines, the AML vaccine teaches the body's immune system to recognize a foreign invader (in this case, AML cancer cells) so that it can mount an effective attack when that invader appears. This vaccine is made primarily of two materials – polyethylene glycol and alginate – that have been cross-linked together to attract the body's dendritic cells and activate them, along with antigens specific to AML cells like contents from dead AML cells. When taking the vaccine, the activated dendritic cells take up the antigens from the vaccine site and present them to T cells, triggering them to seek and destroy AML cells.
"When we injected the vaccine under the skin of healthy mice, we saw that it resulted in a much higher number of activated T cells," explained lead author David Mooney.