Researchers Successfully Treat Mice with Personalized Cancer Vaccines

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan developed personalized therapeutic vaccines for treating certain kinds of cancer. The team used nanodiscs to deliver the treatments and the method was successful in treating live mice. The findings are in a paper that was just published in the journal Nature Materials.

Most modern cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, are generalized and not based on the patient’s specific needs. Personalized immunotherapy can solve this problem by allowing doctors to directly target the patient’s tumor. One strategy is to engage the body’s immune system by “helping” it learn the location of the tumor.

The research team developed a treatment method that utilizes neoantigens to create a personalized vaccine. Neoantigens are specific mutations found in tumors that have yet to be discovered by the patient’s immune system. If molecules with neoantigens are released into the patient’s body, the immune system can learn to recognize tumor cells. This triggers the immune system to attack the tumor while preventing the growth of new cancer cells.

The team tried their method on live mice with malignant tumors. The researchers used tiny nanodiscs to deliver a mixture of neoantigens and immune checkpoint inhibitors to adult mice. Immune checkpoint inhibitors enhance the immune response and are already used in cancer treatment. The nanodiscs mimic lipoproteins, allowing the medication to be accepted by the body.

The treatment worked on mice and killed the tumors within 10 days. Months later, the researchers injected the mice with the same tumor cells. These cells didn’t grow, however, and were outright rejected by the immune system. The nanodisc treatment didn’t simply eliminate the tumors but also prevented recurrence even after months had passed.

The team’s findings represent a huge step towards the use of personalized immunotherapy for treating cancer. Synthetic nanodiscs worked as delivery systems for a treatment vaccine that killed cancer cells while preventing any future tumor growth. A biotechnology company called EVOQ Therapeutics is already working with the researchers on future studies.


Kuai et al. Designer vaccine nanodiscs for personalized cancer immunotherapy. Nature Materials (2016).

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