A research initiative by a team at Stanford University has led to the advancement of an old concept for the immune system. Precisely, it provides the method to develop a new strategy to train the immune system of mice to detect cancer cells. Importantly, the research is based on the recent understanding that induced pluripotent stem cells produce a large set of antigens. These antigens have an overlap for a specific type of pancreatic cancer, and these similarities can be used for potential clinical benefit.
In fact, vaccines can be highly effective to prevent infections by training the immune system. This is because vaccines work by recognizing foreign agents in the body such as viruses, and work to eliminate them. Vaccines trigger the immune system by producing antigens that are normally not present in the body. These antigens are then recognized as foreign bodies by the immune system to trigger an immune response against them.
Meanwhile, vaccines against cancer are less known, and still in the early stage. Tumor cells related to cancer often contain antigens that are rare, and are mostly not found in other tissues of the body. For this reason, antigens related to tumor cells can be target of the immune system.
Till date, the efforts to develop an effective and durable vaccine against tumors has been a challenge. The study published in Stem Cell Reports monetizes on the knowledge that iPSCs produce antigen that are also found in different types of tumors, but are not present in most normal tissue.
To establish this, the researchers vaccinated mice with iPSCs that were treated with irradaiation. This prevented iPSCs from dividing, and a CpG adjuvant to trigger a robust immune response.