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UNC scientists discover potential strategy to improve cancer vaccines
Date:12/14/2010

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. The promise of vaccines targeted against various types of cancer has raised the hopes of patients and their families. The reality, however, is that these promising treatments are difficult to develop. One of the challenges is identifying a discrete cellular target to stop cancer growth without inactivating the immune system. Scientists at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center report a laboratory finding that has the potential to increase the effectiveness of therapeutic cancer vaccines.

The team found that the absence of the function of a protein called NLRP3 can result in a four-fold increase in a tumor's response to a therapeutic cancer vaccine. If this finding proves consistent, it may be a key to making cancer vaccines a realistic treatment option. Their findings were published in the Dec. 15, 2010 issue of the journal Cancer Research.

Jonathan Serody, MD, a study author, explains, "This finding suggests an unexpected role for NLRP3 in vaccine development and gives us a potentially pharmacologic target to increase vaccine efficacy."

The research team was headed by co-leaders of the UNC Lineberger Immunology Program: Serody, MD, an expert in tumor immunology, and Jenny Ting, PhD, a pioneer in understanding the NLR family of proteins. Serody is the Elizabeth Thomas Professor of Hematology and Oncology. Ting is UNC Alumni Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and director of the Inflammation Center at UNC.

The team discovered that deleting the NLRP3 proteins reduced the supply of a tumor-associated cell called myeloid-derived suppressors, making them five times less effective in reaching the site of tumor growth. Researchers working with Serody had previously shown that these myeloid cells are critically important as they allow the tumor to evade a beneficial immune response. This finding is the first to link immature myeloid cells, NLRP3, and the response to cancer vaccines.<
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Contact: Dianne Shaw
dgs@med.unc.edu
919-966-5905
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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