SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2018

3-D vaccine adds new dimension to cancer research

A new 3-D vaccine may help fight cancer and infectious diseases.
A new 3-D vaccine may help fight cancer and infectious diseases. | Courtesy of

Researchers recently developed a new 3-D vaccine that may be crucial to using the body’s immune system to defeat cancer and infectious diseases, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering said Monday.

The human immune system typically ignores cancer cells because the infected cells are so similar to cells that belong in the body. Cancer vaccines are created to help antibodies perceive and defeat cancer cells.

Researchers previously accomplished this by influencing dendritic cells, which coordinate the behavior of the immune system. Dendritic cells test proteins found on the body’s cells, and when they find a protein that doesn’t belong, they bring the proteins to the body’s lymph nodes, where the immune system learns to attack the cells with those proteins.

In the past, scientists created cancer vaccines by drawing white blood cells from a subject’s blood. The lab transformed the white blood cells into dendritic cells, incubated the cells with cancer proteins that are unique to the subject’s tumor, and injected the metamorphosed dendritic cells back into the subject’s bloodstream. Then the dendritic cells presented their information to the lymph nodes, and the immune system began to fight the tumor.

Previously, cancer vaccines only provoked a short-term immune response that was not strong enough to fight cancer. These procedures are also difficult to regulate.

This is why a new team of researchers has developed a method of manipulating the immune cells within the body with implantable biomaterial. The team’s biodegradable scaffold, injected under the skin, houses dendritic cells while exposing them to tumor proteins, activating the immune system.

The 3-D vaccine, or scaffold, erects its microsize rods into a haystack shape; the scaffold then gathers, stores and influences immune cells to promote a strong immune response. Housed between the rods, immune cells and dendritic cells recognize cancer proteins that are released through the rods’ nano-size pores.

The vaccine already has proven useful in delaying tumor growth in mice. The scaffold had a 90 percent success rate in lab animals that typically die from cancer in 25 days. Other test animals, given a bolus injection that contained the same cancer drugs, but not the cancer proteins or scaffold, had only a 60 percent success rate.

The injectable scaffold could make cancer vaccines easier to administer and could outdate surgeries that many cancer patients undergo. Any combination of drugs and virus proteins could be added to the scaffold, making the new developments transferrable to any infectious disease study.

Further details can be found in the journal Nature Biotechnology, published on Dec. 8, 2014.