There are many different kinds of treatment for cancer. Some include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. But, researchers at Harvard have been testing a new kind of immunotherapy in mice. They have developed a vaccine to help fight tumors by assembling into an "infection-mimicking microenviornment" to help boost immune response against the tumor. The vaccine contains microsized porous silica rods and once injected, these rods form a scaffold which induce a strong immune response.
Cancer cells are ignored by the body because they resemble healthy cells. This vaccine tries to help the immune system recognize tumor cells more efficiently. It does this by employing the help of dendritic cells. These cells search the body looking for antigens on the surfaces of invaders like viruses and bacteria. They proceed to take the foreign body to the lymph nodes where the immune response progresses. This vaccine ramps up this response by assisting these cells in finding the antigens present on tumor cells by having said antigens inside the biomaterial:
This immunotherapy is different from ones used in practice because everything happens inside the body. Most therapies now include removing white blood cells, manipulating them, and injecting them back into the body. This vaccine is revolutionary since it requires a much less invasive process. Clinical studies with mice have shown, "90% of mice receiving injection still alive at 30 days compared with only 60% of mice" given an injection of only drugs and antigens with no scaffold.
While this therapy is now being researched as a cancer vaccine, it could be used to fight other diseases as well. The same scaffolding material can be loaded with any combination of drugs or antigens to produce the same immune response, in theory.
Carolyn McDonagh (Group B)