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New class of nanoparticle-based vaccines could help immunize against cancer

Nieuwe klasse van op nanodeeltjes gebaseerde vaccins kan helpen bij het immuniseren tegen kankerACS Nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c10709″ width=”500″ height=”212″/>

Graphic abstract. Credit: ACS Nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c10709

A vaccine as tumor therapy – with a vaccine made individually from a patient’s tissue sample that “connects” the body’s own immune system to cancer cells. The foundation for this long-term vision has now been laid by a team of researchers from the MPI for Polymer Research and the University Medical Center Mainz, in particular from the Immunology and Dermatology departments. Their results were recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

“We have implemented a new class of vaccines that can provide an efficient alternative to mRNA vaccines,” said Prof. dr. Lutz Nuhn, so far group leader in Tanja Weil’s department at the MPI for Polymer Research and recently appointed Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at Julius-Maximilians University in Würzburg. This is important, for example, for people in whose bodies the production of proteins is disrupted when they are vaccinated with mRNA vaccines – that is, those that are sometimes used against corona – and for whom these vaccines therefore have only a limited effect.

The main reason, however, is that if cancer vaccines are to become the norm one day, several effective strategies must be explored to provide specific immune cells with vital vital information.

Antigen plus immune activator linked to nanoparticles

The new vaccine class consists of two components: firstly, the antigen, which is specific to the tumor cell and must be recognized by the immune system as an ‘enemy’, so to speak, and secondly, the immune activator – a ‘stinger’. ‘ that shakes up the immune system.

As an immune activator, the researchers are using a derivative of a chemical molecule discovered by Sunil A. David in the US and already being used successfully in the Indian corona vaccine Covaxin. On its own, this molecule is too active and powerful and is said to cause severe inflammatory reactions throughout the body. Therefore, the research team attaches it to a carrier, more specifically to polymer-based nanoparticles that have a gel-like consistency, are biodegradable and locally limit the effect of the immune activator. These nanoscale materials with a diameter of less than 100 nanometers are about the size of viruses – so the cells of the immune system recognize them very well, eat them and wake up from their slumber. The nanoparticles thus open a direct path to the immune system. And: “By binding them to nanopolymers, we were able to inhibit the immune response to the desired level,” explains Nuhn.

Vaccine specifically kills tumor cells

In order to target the vaccine to the tumor, you need to know: What distinguishes tumor tissue from healthy tissue, in other words, which specific antigens are found on the cancer? This may very well be patient-specific. “If a tumor is diagnosed at an early stage, a race against time begins to produce the patient-specific vaccine as quickly as possible,” explains Nuhn.

To develop the new vaccine classes, the researchers first use a model antigen. They have generated several tumors carrying this model antigen, both on the surface and on the inside. The first studies are promising; the T cells activated by the vaccine only kill tumor cells that carry the antigen on their surface or even inside. Healthy tissue, on the other hand, is not affected. “The polymer-based nanocarrier is a useful toolbox to further evaluate antigen-specific vaccines and to develop further vaccine-based cancer therapeutic concepts,” Nuhn says. One thing must be said, however: years of further research will be needed before such vaccines can cure patients of tumors. Nor will it be possible to fight all forms of cancer with a vaccine.

Emerging vaccine nanotechnology

More information:
Judith Stickdorn et al, Systemically administered TLR7/8 agonist and antigen-conjugated nanogels determine immune responses against tumors, ACS Nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c10709

Provided by Max Planck Society

Quote: New class of nanoparticle-based vaccines could help immunize against cancer (2022, July 27) retrieved July 27, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-class-nanoparticle-based-vaccines- immunize cancer. html

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