Standard chemotherapy is still the most common treatment for today’s patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but the risk of a combination is high, with almost half of patients experiencing it,media reported. To find a treatment that could provide long-term protection, scientists at Harvard University have developed a new vaccine that has been shown to be effective in mice by combining with chemotherapy, not only to eliminate cancer cells but also to prevent them from recurring for a while.
The vaccine works very much like all vaccines, training the body’s immune system to identify risks (in this case, cancer cells) and push them to work. Most of the cancer vaccines being developed are liquid and used against solid tumors, but scientists at Harvard’s Weiss Institute have gone the other way, producing a solid-state vaccine to fight liquid tumors.
“We’ve developed a cancer vaccine for solid tumors before, and we’re curious whether this technology can also be effective in treating blood cancers like AML,” said Nisarg Shah, co-author of the study. The promising results of the vaccine combined with chemotherapy could translate into a human vaccine that will be both personalized and ready-made. “
The vaccine consists of biomaterials built on a disc-shaped “frozen gel” stent that contains biomolecules and antigens specific to AML cancer cells to stimulate the immune response. It is hoped that this treatment will not only quickly identify and destroy AML cells, but will also remain vigilant for longer periods of time against any future attacks.
The team first tested the vaccine in healthy mice and observed that the vaccine produced a strong immune response by activating large amounts of T-cells. The scientists then simulated the onset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by injecting cancer cells into mice, and as a result, the mice treated with the frozen gel vaccine survived, and the entire control group died within 60 days.
In order to get closer to the onset of a propensity, the scientists then studied the effects of the cryogenic gel vaccine on bone marrow, the source region of the disease. In the bone marrow of mice vaccinated against the frozen gel, the researchers found a large number of activated T-cells, but no signs of AML cells. When these bone marrows were transplanted into new mice and a healthy animals were injected with AML cells, the vaccine won again, and the transplant recipients survived, while the control group died within 30 days. The team said the results showed that the vaccine provided a sustainable and transferable protection.
The researchers then conducted a trial of a combination of cryogenic gel vaccines and standard chemotherapy in AML patients. As a result, the number of active T-cells increased, and the number was six times higher than that of conventional therapies. No signs of AML were found in the latter group within 14 days of the bone marrow transplanted into a healthy mouse, and the control group that did not receive the transplant died within 31 days after the subsequent injection of AML cells.
David Mooney, co-author of the study, said they were excited about the performance of the AML vaccine they developed because it could finally provide long-term, relapsed protection for AML patients.
The study was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering.