DNA melanoma vaccine shows hope in early studies

The name of the vesicular stomatitis virus doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but it could be playing a major role in the treatment of melanoma by helping immune systems fight melanoma from within, if early-stage research at the Mayo Clinic comes to fruition.

Melanoma is the leading cause of deaths from skin cancers, though it is not the most common skin tumor. The researchers, in a study published in Nature Biotechnology, created a vaccine by engineering the vesicular stomatitis virus to incorporate a range of DNA from human melanoma cell lines. The vaccine cured up to 60% of mice with melanoma.

The reasoning behind the approach, which uses a highly immunogenic virus and a broad spectrum of genes, was to trigger an immune response and expose the immune system to a wide variety of tumor antigens. While cancers seem to be able to adapt to and hide from the normal immune system, they don't seem to be able to hide from this approach. This technology could have potential for other cancers.

"By vaccinating against multiple proteins at once, we hope that we will be able to treat both the primary tumor and also protect against recurrence," says co-author Richard Vile, a Mayo Clinic researcher. "By expressing all of these proteins in highly immunogenic viruses, we increased their visibility to the immune system. The immune system now thinks it is being invaded by the viruses, which are expressing cancer-related antigens that should be eliminated."

- read the press release
- check out the abstract