Two articles published in this week’s Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) explore the efficacy of new vaccines -- one against the deadly Ebola virus and the second targeting breast cancer tumors. In addition to the reported efficacy of each vaccine, what is interesting about these two papers is that in both cases, the addition of a specific type of adjuvant (an adjuvant is an agent that by itself does little, but when it is given along with a vaccine or drug will improve the efficacy of that drug by inducing a stronger immune response) dramatically improved the responses to the vaccine and produced a therapeutic response. In both studies, the administration of the vaccine alone without the adjuvant did little to induce a response.
Both groups used a protein called the Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonist as the adjuvant of choice. The Ebola vaccine was given with a TLR3 agonist called poly I, poly C or poly I:C, while the breast cancer vaccine was given along with a TLR2 agonist called PamCys. Although use of TLR agonists as cancer vaccine agonists is not a new idea, it is intriguing to see two non-overlapping fields use similar agents to help augment the immune responses and to eliminate a virus or tumor cell. It would seem that TLR adjuvants are very powerful agents to help induce the proper immune response and fight off viral and tumor invasion. Use of similar agents is very disparate diseases bodes well for usefulness of these TLR agonists in therapeutic settings.
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Lakshminarayanan, V et. al. PNAS 2011 Dec 14
Phoolcharoen, W. et. al. PNAS 2011 Dec 5
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