A research team at Israel’s Tel Aviv University believe they are on a path toward developing a new way to treat and prevent melanoma via a use of a “nano-vaccine.” Making great strides in preclinical research with mice, could the next step be applicability to other cancers and possibly human clinical trials?

The Tel Aviv University team believes that their research has opened the door for a fundamentally different and novel approach.

The Problem

Melanoma develops in the skin cells that produce melanin or skin pigment. Some 7,230 people in the U.S. are expected to die from melanoma in 2019 according to the American Cancer Society.

The War against Melanoma

With advances over the years through a variety of modalities—from surgery and chemotherapy to radiation and most recently, immunology—the vaccine approach has lagged.

The Preclinical Study

The Israeli team demonstrates the possibility of producing an effective “nano-vaccine” to fight melanoma and “sensitize the immune system to immunotherapies.” They utilize tiny particles—170 nanometers in size and made up of biodegradable polymers—each of which is “packed” with two peptides (short chains of amino acids, which are found in melanoma cells). Thereafter, they inject the nanoparticles (or nano-vaccines) into mice that had the melanoma.

The team’s lead, Professor Satchi-Fainaro, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, reported that “The nanoparticles acted just like known vaccines for viral-borne diseases.” He continued, “They stimulated the immune system of the mice, and the immune cells learned to identify and attack cells containing the two peptides—that is, the melanoma cells.  This meant that, from now on, the immune system of the immunized mice will attack melanoma cells if and when they appear in the body.”

The Study Evaluates the Vaccine under Three Conditions

The Times of Israel showcased how the Tel Aviv University tested the vaccine in three scenarios including: 1)  the vaccine injected into healthy mice followed by injection of melanoma cells 2) treatment of primary melanoma in mice combined with immunotherapy treatments already approved for use and 3) testing on tissues taken from human patients in which the melanoma cancer had spread to the brain.

In all three scenarios, the preclinical investigators uncovered very promising findings. The team believes that this platform can be expanded to other types of cancers.

Lead Research/Investigator

Professor Satchi-Fainaro, chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine

Source: The Times of Isreal

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