Health In Focus
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) were used to train the immune system to attack cancer cells, making them apt anti-cancer vaccines.
  • Non-replicating iPSCs that genetically match the recipient when injected into the patient expose the patient’s immune system to a variety of cancer-specific targets.
  • This exposure puts the immune system on alert to target cancers as they develop throughout the body.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) which can be converted into several different types of cell types were used to treat and prevent cancer in mice. The study conducted by a research team at Stanford University School of Medicine uses iPSCs to train the immune system to attack the tumor. The study also suggests that it may be possible to use an individual's iPSCs to develop an anti-cancer vaccine that could protect the body against the development of several cancers. The study is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Why iPSCs?

iPSCs, like many cancer cells, resemble developmentally immature progenitor cells, which do not have any growth restrictions and mature to become different types of cells. When the gene expression panels of the two cell types were compared, it was found that the cells share proteins on their surfaces called epitopes that could serve as targets for the immune system.
Personalized Cancer Vaccine Created From Stem Cells Could Be A Future Possibility

"We've learned that iPS cells are very similar on their surface to tumor cells," said Joseph Wu, MD, Ph.D., director of Stanford's Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiovascular medicine and radiology. "When we immunized an animal with genetically matching iPS cells, the immune system could be primed to reject the development of tumors in the future. Pending replication in humans, our findings indicate these cells may one day serve as a true patient-specific cancer vaccine."

Study overview

iPSCs were made using cell samples from easily available skin and blood cells. The cells derived from the body were treated in the lab to rewind their developmental clock to make them pluripotent, which is the ability to differentiate into nearly any type of cell. The pluripotency was tested by checking for the development of a tumor called teratoma in mice.

To test the ability of iPSCs to trigger an immune response and its efficacy as an anti-cancer vaccine, mice experiments were conducted. Four groups of mice were considered. One group received a control solution, a second group received irradiated genetically matching iPS cells to prevent the formation of teratomas, and the third group received an immune-stimulating agent known as an adjuvant. The fourth group received a combination of irradiated iPS cells and adjuvant. The injections were given once a week for four weeks. Later, a mouse breast cancer cell line was transplanted into all the mice for the growth of a tumor.

All mice developed breast cancer, one week after transplantation. The tumor grew rapidly in the control group. In the group that received the irradiated iPSCs and adjuvant combination, the size of the tumor shrank in 7 out of 10 vaccinated mice. Two of the seven mice completely rejected the tumor and lived for more than one year after tumor transplantation.

This approach is relatively simple in theory and means that taking your blood cells, converting them into blood cells and then injecting these cells into your body could protect you from future cancers.

References :
  1. Induced pluripotent stem cells could serve as cancer vaccine - (
Source: Medindia

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