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

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Serody says, "We had originally thought inactivating the NLRP3 protein would decrease the immune system's ability to respond to cancer because NLRP3 is important in alerting immune cells to changes in the environment the immune response to cancer. Instead what we found was that by inactivating these proteins, the tumor vaccine was made more effective because fewer myeloid-derived suppressor cells were available to promote tumor growth and reduce the efficacy of the vaccine."

At present, there is only one FDA-approved cancer vaccine called Provenge, used to treat advanced prostate cancer. Provenge has been shown to extend survival by three to four months.

Vaccines are difficult to make. Because a vaccine is person-specific, made with the individual's immune cells, the production process requires that the individual's cells are isolated and shipped to the company for vaccine production. As a result, the vaccines are expensive. Provenge costs approximately $100,000 for three treatments.

"A vaccine is not like a pill that can be manufactured in bulk," Serody explains. "And, it's not like developing a vaccine against a virus such as polio or smallpox. Cancer cells look a lot like regular cells, so it is hard to trick the body into thinking cancer cells are 'foreign.' Our hope is that our findings and future work in this area will enable us to develop more effective vaccines against many types of cancer. "


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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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