Researchers create melanoma vaccine

Researchers have developed a nano-vaccine to prevent melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer.

Published in Nature Nanotechnology, The Tel Aviv University study successfully prevented the development of melanoma, and successfully treated melanoma metastases, in mice.

Lead scientist Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at TAU, said the study has shown for the first time that it is possible “to produce an effective nano-vaccine against melanoma and to sensitise the immune system to immunotherapies”.

The researchers harnessed tiny particles, about 170 nanometres in size, made of a biodegradable polymer. Within each particle, they ‘packed’ two peptides (short chains of amino acids found in melanoma cells). They then injected the nanoparticles (or ‘nano-vaccines’) into a mouse model bearing melanoma.

According to Prof. Satchi-Fainaro, the nanoparticles “acted just like known vaccines for viral-borne diseases”.

“They [the nanoparticles] stimulated the immune system of the mice, and the immune cells learned to identify and attack cells containing the two peptides (that is, the melanoma cells).

“This meant that, from now on, the immune system of the immunised mice will attack melanoma cells if and when they appear in the body.”

The researchers examine the effectiveness of the vaccine under three different conditions:

Prevention
The vaccine was injected into healthy mice, and an injection of melanoma cells followed.
“The result was that the mice did not get sick, meaning that the vaccine prevented the disease.”

Primary tumour treatment
The vaccine was combined with other immunotherapy treatments to treat mice with melanomas.
“The synergistic treatment significantly delayed the progression of the disease and greatly extended the lives of all treated mice.”

Advanced cancer treatment
The vaccine was injected into mice with melanoma brain metastases.
“The results suggest that the nano-vaccine can be used to treat brain metastases as well.”

Prof. Satchi-Fainaro concluded that the research opens the door to a completely new approach ‒ the vaccine approach ‒ for the effective treatment of melanoma, even in the most advanced stages of the disease.

“The war against cancer in general, and melanoma in particular, has advanced over the years through a variety of treatment modalities, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy; but the vaccine approach, which has proven so effective against various viral diseases, has not materialised yet against cancer,” he said.

“We believe that our work is a solid foundation for the development of melanoma and other cancer nano-vaccines.”

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