CBN published an important step forward in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines

An important step forward in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines

Immunotherapy is one of the most promising strategies to fight cancer. The ultimate aim of a therapeutic vaccine is to instruct the immune system of the patient to identify and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched. Yet, the development of cancer vaccines is hampered by the ability of cancer cells to escape the immune response of the organism and new strategies are required to obtain effective vaccines.

An international team of researchers have now exploited a non-natural, rationally designed glycopeptide to mimic a tumor-associated antigen, typically presented on cancer cells but not on healthy ones. Hundreds of copies of this glycopeptide have been immobilized on the surface of suitably engineered gold nanoparticles, which deliver the antigen mimic to the immune system cells. Immunization tests carried out on mice show that such a formulation induces a strong and specific immune response directed against the tumor-associated antigen demonstrating that the immune system cells were correctly instructed.

The results of this research have been recently published on the prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society (doi 10.1021/jacs.8b13503).


This work has been made possible thanks to the multidisciplinary composition of the research team. In particular, Dr. Corzana and co-workers at the University of La Rioja are glycopeptide experts and responsible for the development of the antigen mimic. The IIT team headed by Dr. Fiammengo has developed tailor-made gold nanoparticles and functionalized them with the glycopeptides. Finally, the potential nanoparticle-based cancer vaccine has been tested on mice at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular of Lisbon by the group of Dr. Bernardes.

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In conclusion, this study is a significant step forward in the development of therapeutic cancer vaccines. It demonstrates the possibility to effectively instruct the immune system to recognize cancerous cells by combining the design of tumor-associated antigen mimics with suitable tailor-made engineered gold nanoparticles as delivery platform.



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