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MRI-UQ researchers develop prototype for cancer vaccine

MRI-UQ researchers develop prototype for cancer vaccine

Researchers at Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) have developed a prototype cancer vaccine which could have the potential to treat different types of cancer.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, details the development of the prototype vaccine which targets specific white blood cells, known as dendritic cells.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Kristen Radford said that the paper was the culmination of more than six years of research and follows on from a vaccine available in the USA.

“In the USA a cancer vaccine for prostate cancer is available that involves removing immune cells from cancer patients at a specialist centre, these cells are then processed in the lab to develop the vaccine, with the patient returning to the centre to have the vaccine supplied.  The cost of providing such treatments is more than $100,000.

“We trialled a similar vaccine from 2005-2010, which was very promising but the procedure was extremely costly making it difficult to replicate widely,” A/Prof Radford said.

“As a result, we took a different approach and started looking more closely at a specific type of white blood cell, called a dendritic cell.

“Dendritic cells are key cells for us to target in developing a cancer vaccine as they ‘talk’ to the rest of the immune system to respond against cancer cells.

“We discovered that there is more than one type of dendritic cell and that there was one particular type of dendritic cell that is specialised in generating the type of immune response required to fight cancer.  These cells are very rare.  Our work has centred around developing a special vaccine which will deliver only to these cancer fighting dendritic cells.”

A/Prof Radford explained that in a laboratory setting it is easier to test vaccines against viruses than it is against cancer cells, so the research team tested this theory through the development of a prototype vaccine which they tested using a virus. 

“The results showed a really promising response.

“We are at an early phase of this research but it shows a lot of promise and it has the potential to be used in many different types of cancer such as melanoma, prostate cancer and leukaemia.”

Funding for the project has been secured through World Cancer Research Fund, National Health and Medical Research Council and the US Army.

“Over the next three years, the funding from the US Army will enable us to develop a vaccine for prostate cancer and test it in the lab to ensure it works before we seek industry partners to develop it for commercial use.”

MRI-UQ is an alliance between Mater Research and The University of Queensland, two leading institutions working together to achieve the best possible research discoveries in health and medicine.

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