Scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have helped to identify a molecule that can be used as a vaccination agent against growing cancer tumours. Although the results are so far based on animal experiments, they point to new methods of treating metastases.
The results are presented in the online edition of the prestigious scientific journal Nature Medicine, and represent the collaborative efforts of researchers at KI and Leiden University Medical Centre in Holland.
The study analysed an immunological cell, a T cell, which recognises other cells with defects common to metastasing ones. These defects (which are found in MHC class 1 molecules) allow the tumour cell to evade the "conventional" T cell-mediated immune defense.
The researchers have identified a short peptide molecule that the T cell in the study recognizes. Using this peptide, the researchers can vaccinate and protect against the spread of tumours from different tissues, including melanoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, and fibrosarcoma.
"So far we've only conducted research on mice, so it's too early to get out hopes up too much," says research scientist Elisabeth Wolpert at the Microbiology and Tumour Biology Centre. "However, the study does point towards new possible ways of developing a treatment for advanced tumor diseases."
The newly published study is a continuation of an original discovery that first identified the TEIPP-T cell and that was presented in Ms Wolpert's doctoral thesis at Karolinska Institutet in 1998.
The spread of tumours, or metastases, is the most common cause of death from cancer.
Publication: Selective cytotoxic T-lymphocyte targeting of tumor immune escape variants, Nature Medicine, Thorbald van Hall, Elisabeth Wolpert, Peter van Veelen, Klas Kärre, Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren, Cornelis JM Melief, Rienk Offringa, et al.
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