Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and John A. Paulson School for Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a biomaterial-based cancer vaccine by using chemotherapy and immunotherapy approaches to treat triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer is a kind of breast cancer that does not have any of the three receptors that are commonly found in breast cancer, making it the toughest cancer to treat. Two of these receptors are female hormones known as estrogen and progesterone while one is a protein called human epidermal growth factor (HER2).
This cancer can be treated with two approaches; chemotherapy and immunotherapy, with low chances of success. The former approach kills rapidly dividing cancer cells, but it also damages healthy cells in the body and often does not effectively prevent tumor metastasis or disease recurrence. The latter avoids these problems by acting on a patient’s immune system to generate a sustained anti-cancer response, but frequently have trouble accessing tumors due to the immunosuppressive local environment that tumors create.
However, Harvard’s biomaterial-based cancer vaccine, which involves chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs and synthetic DNA strands that improve immune response and prevent cancer cells from hiding from treatment, has successfully treated triple-negative breast cancer in mice.
According to details, the vaccine destroyed the triple-negative breast cancer cells in mice and directed the immune response to attack anything that looked similar to the cells.
Harvard researchers have claimed that the vaccine improved the immune response by 8% in mice, adding that the mice were successfully infected with triple-negative breast cancer and treated without any side effects.