New molecular targets have been identified against which to develop the anti-cancer vaccines of the future: they are particular proteins present on the surface of cancer cells, able to awaken dormant immune cells by enhancing their response.
The first tests on mice were positive, showing a reduction in the size of tumors, as indicated by the results published in the journal Cell by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The study could accelerate research into cancer vaccines, which so far have shown promise only in some clinical trials against melanoma and specific types of lung cancer. “These therapies work beautifully in a subset of patients, while most don't respond very well,” explains study coordinator Megan Burger. "Much of the research in our lab aims to understand why this happens and what we can do to make these patients respond better." Thanks to experiments on mice with lung cancer, the researchers found that the T cells of the immune system, directed against different tumor proteins, compete with each other: in the end, only a dominant population emerges that suppresses the others.and continues to do so even when it is a loser in the fight against cancer. However, suppressed T cells can be awakened if the tumor proteins that represent their target are injected again through vaccination. In tests on mice, an average tumor reduction of 27% was obtained.