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Scientists develop vaccine that attacks breast cancer in mice
Date:12/12/2011

Athens, Ga.Researchers from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have developed a vaccine that dramatically reduces tumors in a mouse model that mimics 90 percent of human breast and pancreatic cancer casesincluding those that are resistant to common treatments.

The vaccine, described this week in the early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals a promising new strategy for treating cancers that share the same distinct carbohydrate signature, including ovarian and colorectal cancers.

"This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response," said study co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons, Franklin Professor of Chemistry and a researcher in the UGA Cancer Center and its Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. "It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent."

When cells become cancerous, the sugars on their surface proteins undergo distinct changes that set them apart from healthy cells. For decades, scientists have tried to enable the immune system to recognize those differences to destroy cancer cells rather than normal cells. But since cancer cells originate within the body, the immune system generally doesn't recognize them as foreign and therefore doesn't mount an attack.

The researchers used unique mice developed by Sandra Gendler, Grohne Professor of Therapeutics for Cancer Research at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and co-senior author on the study. Like humans, the mice develop tumors that overexpress a protein known as MUC1 on the surface of their cells. The tumor-associated MUC1 protein is adorned with a distinctive, shorter, set of carbohydrates that set it apart from healthy cells.

"This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1," Gendler said. "We a
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Contact: Sam Fahmy
sfahmy@uga.edu
706-542-6049
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert  

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