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Breast Cancer Vaccine Stimulates Potent Immune Response to Cancer Cells

Mayo Clinic researchers have designed a new strategy in the promising field of cancer vaccine research that’s proven to be successful in boosting T cells -- the immune builders akin to a super defense// force against cancer cells. Scientists say their strategy may prove to be more successful than methods currently under study and in clinical trials.

The research, which was lost to Hurricane Katrina but recovered at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., will be presented April 17 at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) annual meeting.

Using vaccines to prevent or slow the growth of cancerous tumors is based on the premise that the body’s immune system can be strengthened with an engineered vaccine that would stimulate an antibody and cellular response against cancer cells. Cancer vaccines are still considered experimental and so far, research results have been mixed. New studies, such as this, demonstrate that researchers are closing in on designing viable cancer vaccines, the investigators say.

In this study, Pilar Nava-Parada, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues designed a synthetic peptide vaccine that stimulated an anti-tumor T cell response that recognized and successfully waged a battle against the spread of breast cancer cells in mouse models. (T cells are white blood cells with a key function in immune response.) Dr. Nava-Parada was a postdoctoral fellow in immunology at Mayo Clinic when she and Esteban Celis, M.D., Ph.D., began this research, which they planned to continue at Tulane University and Louisiana State University in New Orleans. But Hurricane Katrina struck before they had a chance to resume the research, so Dr. Nava-Parada returned to Mayo Clinic in Rochester where she began the research anew.

In female mouse models bred with the cancer-producing oncogene HER-2/neu, researchers administered a synthetic peptide vaccine during the early stage of tumor development. The experiment was effective in 100 p
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