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Rodent of the Week: Implanted vaccine attacks cancer

November 27, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Rodent_of_the_week Several cancer vaccines that are delivered via injections or intravenous lines are in development. Another approach to a vaccine, however, is to implant a small disk containing cancer-fighting substances under the skin, according to researchers from Harvard University and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

The scientists showed they could implant a plastic disk containing tumor-specific antigens under the skin of mice. The substances on the disk caused the immune system to mount an attack on cancer cells and eliminated melanoma tumors. The study was published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

"Inserted anywhere under the skin - much like the implantable contraceptives that can be placed in a woman's arm - the implants activate an immune response that destroys tumor cells," the lead author of the study, David J. Mooney. a professor of bioengineering at Harvard, said in a news release.

The implant approach may be less cumbersome and and more effective than other types of cancer vaccines. Most cancer vaccines remove immune cells from the body, reprogram them to attack cancer and return them to the body. But the re-injected cells can die before completing their task. The implant harnesses several types of cells that direct potent immune responses while protecting healthy tissue.

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Advanced Cell Technology Inc.

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