Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) identified neoantigens which have a potential of destroying cancerous cells when incorporated in a vaccine, a Thursday report shows.
T cells in the human body react to cancerous proteins, or neoantigens, helping the immune system battle the disease. However, the tumor may disable these T cells over time, allowing itself to grow unhindered.
The team led by MIT postdoctoral researcher Megan Burger found a way of reawakening T cells through vaccination. The scientists developed personalized cancer vaccines on the basis of neoantigens found in individual patients’ tumors. Clinical trials have shown that the method is promising in treating lung cancer and melanoma, according to MIT News.
We identified neoantigen vaccination as a strategy to abolish dysfunctional CCR6+ TCF1+ CD8 T cells and unleash CD8 T cell responses against subdominant antigens, increasing the overall breadth and functionality of the anti-tumor T cell response. 6/9
— Megan Burger (@MeganBurgerPhD) September 16, 2021
“These therapies work amazingly in a subset of patients, but the vast majority still don’t respond very well,” Burger said. “A lot of the research in our lab is aimed at trying to understand why that is and what we can do therapeutically to get more of those patients responding.”
As part of the experiment, the scientists vaccinated mice suffering from lung tumors with one of the identified neoantigens. The tumors in the animals shrank by an average of 27 percent as a result, the research shows. (RELATED: Trials Begin For Blood Test That Claims To Detect Up To 50 Types Of Cancer)
“The T cells proliferate more, they target the tumors better, and we see an overall decrease in lung tumor burden in our mouse model as a result of the therapy,” Burger added.