A novel experimental vaccine may help slow the development of bowel inflammation and colon cancer, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Their findings have appeared in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
According to senior author Olivera Finn, professor and chair, Department of Immunology, Pitt School of Medicine, people with chronic inflammatory disorders such as IBD are at greater risk for developing cancer at the inflamed site. In other cases, genes that develop cancerous changes can trigger inflammation.
The vaccine made by her team is directed against an abnormal variant of a self-made cell protein called MUC1, which is altered and produced in excess in both IBD and colon cancer.
Dr. Finn said: "Our experiments indicate that boosting the immune response against this protein early in the disease can delay IBD development, control inflammation and thereby reduce the risk of future cancers.
"These findings suggest also that the early stages of chronic inflammation might be considered a premalignant condition."
For the study, the scientists tested transgenic mice that spontaneously develop IBD and then progress to colitis-associated colon cancer, producing the human version of MUC1 in both disease states. It was seen that animals that received the vaccine showed the first signs of IBD significantly later than those in two control groups that did not get the vaccine.
Microscopic evaluation of the colon tissue demonstrated less inflammation in the vaccinated mice, and no indication of cancerous changes. Nearly half of the animals in each of the control groups had evidence of abnormal tissue, and two had colon cancer.
Dr. Finn said: "The MUC1 vaccine seems to change the local environment from one that promotes cancer development to one that inhibits it.
"Certain immune cells that we usually see in the inflamed colon aren't present, and that could make the surroundings less friendly for potentially cancerous cells that also are directly argeted by the vaccine for destruction." (ANI)