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Brain cancer vaccine that ‘turns cells into killers’ being developed

After the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, the likes of Moderna and BioNTech hope that jabs to fight cancer could be available in the years ahead. But one team at Harvard Medical School is taking its own approach to developing such a treatment.

Scientists are developing a vaccine that can simultaneously kill and prevent brain cancer by repurposing living tumour cells.

The prospect of a vaccine for cancer has become one of the legacies of the COVID pandemic, with companies which developed those jabs having pivoted towards one of humanity’s biggest killers.

But scientists at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, have taken a different approach to their brain cancer vaccine by attempting to turn the tumour cells themselves into anti-cancer agents.

“Our team has pursued a simple idea: to take cancer cells and transform them into cancer killers and vaccines,” explained study author Khalid Shah.

“Using gene engineering, we are repurposing cancer cells to develop a therapeutic that kills tumour cells, and stimulates the immune system, to both destroy primary tumours and prevent cancer.”

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The appeal of using living tumour cells is that – a bit like pigeons returning to roost – they will travel long distances across the brain to return to the site of their fellow tumour cells.

It means that by engineering the living cells to release a tumour-killing agent, they can destroy the others.

The engineered tumour cells were also designed to make them easy for the immune system to spot and remember, allowing it to better fight back against cancer in future.

The edited tumour cells were tested in an advanced mouse model of the deadly brain cancer glioblastoma, and showcased promising results.

The peer-reviewed study has been published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.

Category: Technology

Source: Sky Technology

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