Scientists Develop Nano-Vaccine To Treat and Prevent Melanoma

A recently-developed nano-vaccine is now showing incredible promise for treating skin cancer, at least in mouse models.  Developed at Tel Aviv University, scientists say the prospective vaccine actually takes advantage of two experimental new cancer drugs, encapsulated by a tiny nanoparticle.  This nanoparticle has been found to stimulate the immune system and, particularly, attack melanoma cells.  Now they are saying the vaccine could act as a preventative vaccine with the potential to stop cancer from developing at all. 

Study leader Professor Ronit Satchi-Fainaro explains, “The war against cancer in general, and melanoma in particular, has advanced over the years through a variety of treatment modalities, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy; but the vaccine approach, which has proven so effective against various viral diseases, has not materialized yet against cancer.”

The chair of Tel Aviv University Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine goes on to say, “Our research opens the door to a completely new approach—the vaccine approach—for effective treatment of melanoma, even in the most advanced stages of the disease.”

The researchers found that the nanoparticles acted just like the vaccines designed to treat viral-born diseases.  Essentially, the nanoparticles stimulated the immune system in the mice. Furthermore, their immune cells were able to identify and attack cells with two peptides—or, effectively, the melanoma cells. Basically, the immune system of these immunized mice learned to attack melanoma cells if, and when, they appear in the body.

Extensive laboratory testing has showed this treatment can, in fact, be quite effective at treating human metastatic melanoma cells.  In this particular case, the nano-vaccine was found to be effective from cells taken from patients who have been diagnosed with melanoma brain metasastes.  Of course, the research is still preliminary, so more study will be necessary to discern a more consistent clinical outcome over a longer period of time. 

Finally, Satchi-Fainaro concludes, In our study, we have shown that it is possible to produce an effective nano-vaccine against melanoma and to sensitive the immune system to immunotherapies.” 

This study has been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.