A group of scientists at Tel Aviv University have succeeded in developing a vaccine for melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.
According to a statement by the university, animal tests have shown that the nano-vaccine is effective in both preventing melanoma and treating the tumors that result from it.
The study was led by Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro, Chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and Head of the Laboratory for Cancer Research and Nanomedicine at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, and Prof. Helena Florindo of the University of Lisbon.
The research itself was conducted by Dr. Anna Scomparin of Prof. Satchi-Fainaro’s Tel Aviv University lab and postdoctoral fellow Dr. João Conniot.
Results were published August 5, 2019 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
The researchers employed tiny particles made of polymer containing short chains of amino acids. These were then injected into mice with melanoma. In healthy mice, the vaccine proved to prevent illness after infection with melanoma cells.
It was then used the vaccine on a primary tumor in combination with immunotherapy treatment. It both delayed the progress of the disease and extended the mice’s lifespan.
The final step was to use the vaccine on tissues taken from human melanoma sufferers. The results proved that the vaccine can also be used on melanoma brain metastases.
Prof. Satchi-Fainero said, “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.”
“In our study, we have shown that it is possible to produce an effective nano-vaccine against melanoma and to sensitize the immune system to immunotherapies,” she added.
“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,” Satchi-Fainaro said.
“We believe that our platform may also be suitable for other types of cancer and that our work is a solid foundation for the development of other cancer nano-vaccines,” she concluded.