Preclinical vaccine shrinks tumors 80%

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Georgia have conducted preclinical trials of a vaccine that trains the body to recognize a protein called MUC1 that's present on 70% of cancers. In early animal testing, the researchers said their cancer vaccine dramatically reduced tumor size in mice with cancer similar to breast and pancreatic cancers found in humans.

The mice, developed by the Mayo Clinic's Sandra Gendler, have tumors that overexpress MUC1. The protein features a "distinctive, shorter set of carbohydrates" that distinguishes it from healthy cells. UGA Cancer Center researcher Geert-Jan Boons, working with co-senior study author Gendler, created a fully synthetic vaccine that contains three parts: an adjuvant, a component that prompts the body to produce T-helper cells, and a peptide molecule that focuses the immune response on the cells with MUC1 protein. The result was an average 80% reduction in tumor size in mice that got the vaccine.

MUC1 is present in 70% of killing cancers. And 90% of breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancers and multiple myelomas express MUC1 with the shorter carbohydrates.

"This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1," Gendler explained in a statement. "We are especially excited about the fact that MUC1 was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the three most important tumor proteins for vaccine development." Human trials of the vaccine could begin in 2013.

- here's the statement from UGA
- read this Athens Banner-Herald article for more