Doctors are reportedly one step closer to treating and preventing glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer.
The new research, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, represents the culmination of decades of cancer treatment research.
Harvard University scientists developed the apparently promising vaccine by genetically engineering brain cancer cells. Perhaps most importantly, the vaccine has a so-called “double kill-switch” that its researchers claim not only treats brain tumors but also prevents their reoccurrence.
“Our team has pursued a simple idea: to take cancer cells and transform them into cancer killers and vaccines,” said co-author Khalid Shah, MS, Ph.D., the vice chair of research in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and faculty at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
Scientists have been studying cancer vaccines for decades. However, creating an effective cancer vaccine has proved elusive.
Cancer corrupts cells within the body. Many cancer treatments are unable to target cancerous tumors without harming the body as well.
What sets the Harvard research apart is that it took advantage of a unique feature of glioblastoma tumor cells.
When glioblastoma tumor cells break apart from the tumor, they traverse the brain to rejoin with the cancerous mass. However, the Harvard team says they have genetically reengineered the tumor cells to release a tumor-killing agent as they travel throughout the brain.
Not only does this research open the door to treating other forms of cancer throughout the body, but also represents a breakthrough in vaccines created by CRISPR, a gene-editing tool.
“Our goal is to take an innovative but translatable approach so that we can develop a therapeutic, cancer-killing vaccine that ultimately will have a lasting impact in medicine,” Shah continued.
The new vaccine has only been tested in mice and further testing is needed to determine its viability in humans. However, Harvard scientists are hopeful that cancer will become a thing of the past.
Blastomas and other forms of brain cancer have been linked to obesity, one of the most significant public health crises facing the U.S., which is a potential risk factor for all forms of brain tumors, especially among males. Dallas-Fort Worth has one of the highest rates of obesity of any major metro area in the country, as The Dallas Express has previously reported.