Rather than using naturally derived and purified proteins and linkers, Boons and his team created a vaccine synthetically from scratch by stacking molecules together and arranging them in the appropriate configuration. In 2005, they created a fully synthetic vaccine that stimulated an immune response to the tumor-associated carbohydrate alone. The vaccine stimulated only low antibody levels, however, so the researchers began optimizing the components of the vaccine to illicit a stronger immune response.
Their optimized vaccine includes a tumor-associated carbohydrate that triggers the immune systems B cells, a part of a protein that triggers the immune systems T cells and a linker molecule that stimulates the production of generalized immune components known as cytokines.
The results of their three-pronged approach were astounding, particularly with respect to a critical component of the immune system known as IgG.
When we tested our best vaccine we got really, really fabulous antibody levels that have never been seen before, Boons said. The levels of IgG antibody production were 100 times better than with conventional approaches.
The vaccine has been successful in creating an antibody response that can kill cultured epithelial cells those commonly involved in most solid tumors, such as breast and colorectal cancer derived from mice and in stimulating an immune response in healthy mice. The researchers are currently testing the vaccine in mice with cancer, and Boons hopes to start phase I clinical trials in humans within a year.
Despite his enthusiasm for his work, Boons cautions that its too early to predict how the vaccine will perform in humans.
Theres a very big step going from mice to humans, h
|Contact: Sam Fahmy|
University of Georgia