In 2018, an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and over 600 thousand people will die from the disease. Recently, a phase I trial was conducted testing a personalized vaccine’s ability to hold an aggressive group of cancers in check. The trial is the first step to determining if a vaccine can stop cancer in its tracks.

syringe with a blue substance in it with other bottles of red and yellow behind it.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The promising new cancer vaccine cured up to 97 percent of tumors in mice and will soon be tested in humans for the first time. Researchers from Stanford University will test the therapy in about 35 people with lymphoma by the end of the year. The treatment stimulates the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. In the animal studies, injecting the treatment into just one tumor worked to eliminate tumors in other parts of the body.

Researchers reported that, in studies of mice with various cancers — including lymphoma, breast cancer and colon cancer — the treatment eliminated cancer tumors in 87 out of 90 mice, even when the tumors had spread.

The treatment is technically not a vaccine, but rather, a type of immunotherapy that acts like a vaccine. It contains a combination of two agents that stimulate T cells, a type of immune cell, to attack cancer. Normally, the body’s T cells recognize cancer cells as abnormal and attack them. As a tumor grows, it suppresses the ability of T cells to keep the cancer at bay. The new treatment works by reactivating these T cells.

While this is exciting news, results in animal studies don’t always translate to people. The next step for the investigation of this treatment is to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine.  Hopefully in a few years, we’ll be able to get an injection to halt the progress of cancerous tumors.