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Novel prostate cancer vaccine taking aim at cancer cell 'sweet spot'
Date:1/8/2009

Molecules of sugar sitting on the surface of cancer cells are keys to the development of a new vaccine aimed at both treating and stopping the spread of certain types of cancers called carcinomas, which include prostate, breast, ovarian and lung, among others. Armed with a new two-year grant for $600,000 from the Gateway for Cancer Research, an Illinois-based philanthropic foundation, immunologist Alessandra Franco, M.D., Ph.D., and her co-workers at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego are hoping to develop a low-cost immunotherapy for prostate carcinoma that may also have use against a variety of other carcinomas as well.

Franco, adjunct assistant professor of pediatrics at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, and her co-workers have spent the last decade proving that the immune system's destructive, or "killer," T-cells can recognize sugars on tumor cell surfaces. Her laboratory pioneered and developed the notion that conventional T-cells recognize not only peptides, or pieces of proteins, but also sugars, specifically small carbohydrates called tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACA) expressed on carcinoma cell surfaces. Ideally, this recognition enables the T-cell to attach to and kill the cancer cell.

The researchers have designed "glycopeptides," compounds in which sugars are linked to peptides that are recognized by T-cells. When given as part of a vaccine therapy, these glycopeptides rouse immune system T-cells into recognizing TACA on tumor cell surfaces, attacking and killing the cancer cells. Her research team has already shown that both normal mice and mice with tumors that were vaccinated could successfully generate carbohydrate-specific T-cells that could kill tumors expressing the same carbohydrate molecule.

Cancer vaccines have had a mixed record of success at best. Most immunotherapies have focused on revving up immune system antibodies to recognize proteins on tumor cells. '/>"/>

Contact: Steve Benowitz
sbenowitz@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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