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Scientists develop vaccine that successfully attacks breast cancer in mice
Date:12/13/2011

ll cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1," Dr. Gendler says. "We are especially excited about the fact that MUC1 was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the three most important tumor proteins for vaccine development."

"This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response," says study co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons, Ph.D., Franklin Professor of Chemistry and a researcher in the UGA Cancer Center and its Complex Carbohydrate Research Center in Athens.

Dr. Gendler says MUC1 is found on more than 70 percent of all cancers that kill. Many cancers, such as breast, pancreatic, ovarian and multiple myeloma, express MUC1 with the shorter carbohydrate on more than 90 percent of cases.

She explains that when cancer occurs, the architecture of the cell changes and MUC1 is produced at high levels, promoting tumor formation. A vaccine directed against MUC1 has tremendous potential to prevent recurrence or as a prophylactic in patients at high risk for particular cancers, Dr. Gendler says. A vaccine also can be used together with standard therapy such as chemotherapy in cancers that cannot be cured by surgery, such as pancreatic cancer.

For the immune system to recognize MUC1 on the tumor cells, it required a special vaccine that had three parts. One part tricks the body into thinking that the cancer cell is a bacterial infection, one part stimulates an antibody response, and one part stimulates a lymphocyte response. If any of the three components were omitted, the vaccine did not work as well.

Dr. Boons notes that MUC1 is also overexpressed in 90 percent of the subset of patients who are not responsive to hormonal therapy, such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors, or the drug Herceptin. These so-called triple-negative tumors are extremely aggressive and difficult to treat, Dr. Boons says, and a new treatment option is urgently needed.

"In the U.S. alone,
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Contact: Jim McVeigh
mcveigh.jim@mayo.edu
480-301-4222
Mayo Clinic
Source:Eurekalert

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