A new therapeutic vaccine against the most aggressive skin cancer, melanoma, has reached phase I clinical trials in humans, after demonstrating its effectiveness in tests performed with mice in the laboratory. Although it has been designed to combat melanoma, it also opens a way to treat other types of cancer and inflammatory diseases.
The new drug was first known in 2009, after a preclinical study - whose results were published in Science Translational Medicine-, in which 50% of the mice with melanoma that were treated with two doses of the vaccine, and that were expected to die within a period of about 25 days, were shown to have a complete regression of the tumor cancerous.
The vaccine, developed thanks to a new model of translational research carried out at the Wyss Institute of Engineering Inspired by Biology at Harvard University, in the United States, presents a new approach, different from other therapeutic cancer vaccines that they need to eliminate the patient's immune cells first, then reprogram them and reintroduce them into their body.
50% of the mice with melanoma treated with two doses of the vaccine experienced a complete regression of the tumor
The new vaccine, which consists of a small sponge - the size of a fingernail - that is implanted under the skin, however, works by recruiting and reprogramming the patient's own immune cells, and causing them to go to the place in the that reside the cancer cells, where they eliminate them.
Glenn Dranoff, a professor at the Cancer Vaccine Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and one of the directors of the research work, has stated that it is unusual for human clinical trials to be initiated so quickly after testing a new technology in the laboratory. It is expected that phase I of the study, whose objective is to verify the safety of the vaccine in humans, will conclude in 2015.