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Cancer Vaccine That Mimics Lymph Node 53

SubComdTaco writes "Harvard has announced their approach towards an implantable cancer vaccine (press release here). To anyone familiar with how the immune system works, this appears to be a synthetic lymph node, an intriguing bit of biomimicry. From the Science Daily article: 'A cancer vaccine carried into the body on a carefully engineered, fingernail-sized implant is the first to successfully eliminate tumors in mammals, scientists recently reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. The new approach, pioneered by bioengineers and immunologists at Harvard University, uses plastic disks impregnated with tumor-specific antigens and implanted under the skin to reprogram the mammalian immune system to attack tumors. The new paper describes the use of such implants to eradicate melanoma tumors in mice. ... The slender implants... are 8.5 millimeters in diameter and made of an FDA-approved biodegradable polymer. Ninety percent air, the disks are highly permeable to immune cells and release cytokines, powerful recruiters of immune-system messengers called dendritic cells. These cells enter an implant's pores, where they are exposed to antigens specific to the type of tumor being targeted. The dendritic cells then report to nearby lymph nodes, where they direct the immune system's T cells to hunt down and kill tumor cells.'"
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Cancer Vaccine That Mimics Lymph Node

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  • interesting (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    hmm could this be used for HIV as well then? program the immune system to attack it?

    • Re:interesting (Score:4, Informative)

      by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:40PM (#30249286) Journal
      The immune system does attack HIV, and that's kind of the problem. HIV infects T4 lymphocytes, which get killed off by the rest of the immune system, which then allows opportunistic infections to cause problems (and death).
      • The larger problem is that the AIDS virus does not copy itself particularly well, consequently mutating fast. Different 'populations' of slightly different versions of the AIDS virus grow and decline and eventually the immune system can never quite rid the body of the infection which eventually overwhelmed as you described.

  • 8.5 millimeters .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <> on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:42PM (#30249324) Homepage Journal

    If it cures my cancer, I don't care if the think is the size of a hockey puck and they have to stick it in my forehead*.

    *Ass was too expected.

  • It's not what I would normally consider a vaccine- I was going to post that it wasn't a vaccine at all, but a quick examination of the definition of the word indicates I was about to firmly place foot-in-mouth had I done so.

    A fantastic breakthrough if it works, though. I have been hearing about potential strategies to enable a cancer victim's own immune system to attack tumors, but this is the furthest along that I've heard of. Good jorb!
  • Really cool... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:49PM (#30249404)

    unless the foreign components are later found to cause cancer themselves.

  • According to the article, it releases "antigens specific to the type of tumor being targeted". Sounds more like a treatment, unless you plan to implant antigens for every known tumor type.
  • I'm curious though, Isn't a cancer cell really just a normal cell that's basically gone "immortal" and reproduces indefinitely? Isn't there a chance that this vaccination could accidentally tell the immune cells to attack cells that are normal but could have a similar antigen? Just curious.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Not really a problem, the antigens are significantly different and we already use them to diagnose the cancer in the first place. If there was any autoimmune response the implant could be removed and the antibodies would filter out of the body.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cancer is triggered by the mutation of a normal cell into one that basically reproduces indefinitely. The worst types of cancer (e.g. small cell carcinoma) are cells that are smaller than normal cells, and these are particularly dangerous because they don't clump together like benign tumors. These ones spread throughout the body and that is why they are so deadly. I'm not quite sure why the body doesn't recognize these cells as "invaders" in the first place. But, if they can synthetically tell the lymph

      • So basically it will be reversible with removal of the artificial lymph node. I think that would be a very important caveat to mention to prevent people's fears of any autoimmune diseases. Thanks for the clarification.
      • by phtpht ( 1276828 )

        I'm not quite sure why the body doesn't recognize these cells as "invaders" in the first place.

        I'm not an immunologist, but I would guess it's because the cancer cells don't cause violent death (necrosis) of normal cells.

    • by tgd ( 2822 )

      Its actually in line with a more common cancer treatment (that some oncologists believe may have a lot of promise) that was used prior to the discovery of x-rays and other forms of radiation... back in the early 20th century, a common treatment was the injection of infectious fluid (bacteria basically) into the tumor, which (we know today, they didn't then) caused the body's immune system to go into overdrive and as a side effect take out the tumor as well.

      Radiation became the norm in the 30's and 40's (whe

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        It does seem that this is a refinement on that very old technique. It has the advantage that it doesn't require a solid tumor mass to work, so it can be tried after the current treatments to clean up that last bit that can cause a relapse.

        Once it's proven itself there it will likely be tried as a replacement for radiation/chemo.

  • and get your Lupus / out of control immune system deployment widget.
  • Can I urge you to go for a colonoscopy when recommended. Too many people put it off because they're embarrassed or think it will be painful - believe me, surgery and chemo are far worse.
  • I would be worried about invoking autoimmune diseases.

  • by alexo ( 9335 ) on Friday November 27, 2009 @10:38PM (#30251954) Journal

    Making the immune system attack (only) the cancerous cells seems to be a popular research subject these days.

    Another company called Immunovative is taking a slightly different approach which does not require an implant.
    They are currently running human clinical trials in Israel and California. More information here [].

    Disclaimer: A close friend of mine is participating in the clinical trial in Carlsbad.

  • This cancer thing is so fantastic I don't reckon anybody cares that Dr. Zamboni of Italy has cured MS (Multiple Sclerosis) eh? He tried it on a fluke with his wife first and it fixed her up immediately. He found a blockage that was preventing blood from getting out of the brain so it was causing damage and stuff. I lost the link but I'm sure Google has it. Yeah baby, and for some odd reason he didn't do it on mice for 10 years first!
  • The Press Release is dated January 22, 2009. Has there been any recent developments? What's the timeline for human trials?
  • while interesting not really the first: []

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