Nanoparticle vaccine helps the body attack cancer cells

Vaccinations have effectively eliminated polio, smallpox and rabies from the world's population—and cancer could be next on the list. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have developed nanoparticle vaccine immunotherapy to help the human body fight off a variety of cancers.

The study, published in Nature Nanotechnology, tested the nanovaccine on different kinds of cancer in mice. The nanovaccine included tumor antigens—proteins recognized by the body’s immune system—in a synthetic polymer nanoparticle. The nanoparticle is able to active the body’s tumor-specific immune response, helping the body to fight the cancer.

"What is unique about our design is the simplicity of the single-polymer composition that can precisely deliver tumor antigens to immune cells while stimulating innate immunity. These actions result in safe and robust production of tumor-specific T cells that kill cancer cells," said Jinming Gao, PhD, professor of pharmacology and otolaryngology in UT Southwestern's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Researchers tested the vaccine on mice with melanoma, colorectal cancer, HPV cancers of the cervix, head, neck and anogenital regions. The vaccine was able to travel directly to the lymph nodes, activating the STING adaptor protein to stimulated the body to fight the cancer. Results showed that nanovaccine slowed the growth of the tumor and extend the life of the mice.

"For nanoparticle vaccines to work, they must deliver antigens to proper cellular compartments within specialized immune cells called antigen-presenting cells and stimulate innate immunity," said Zhijian Chen, PhD, professor of molecular biology and director of the Center for Inflammation Research. "Our nanovaccine did all of those things."