It has been a relatively long standing theory that an effective cancer vaccine can and will be created. Such a vaccine would infect and replicate only in cancer cells and would leave normal cells unscathed. A new publication in the journal Nature (477:99-102 at nature.com) demonstrates that researchers have conducted the first clinical trial demonstrating efficacy of just such a cancer vaccine.
Using vaccinia virus, the virus used to develop the small pox vaccine, Dr. Breitbach and colleagues engineered a virus that can seek out and infect cells that express the protein EGFR, a protein that is commonly elevated in cancers. In fact, the vaccinia virus can only live and replicate in cells with EGFR overexpression. Their data show that this engineered virus can be injected intravenously and can selectively infected cancer cells (but not normal cells). When the virus finds and infects these cancer cells, it can effectively kill them. Importantly, by using this vaccinia virus technique, researchers were able to produce high enough levels of vaccine to eliminate a significant amount of the tumor. This is a big step forward towards the development a new therapy in patients.
n3 science communications