A Universal Cancer Vaccine Closer To Becoming A Reality After Genetic Breakthrough

Scientists are 'hacking' into our immune system and telling it to fight back.

02/06/2016 11:52

A universal cancer vaccine is potentially within reach after scientists successfully demonstrated how our own bodies can be taught to kill cancer cells.

The new therapy involves injecting tiny particles of engineered genetic code into the body which then effectively 'teach' our own immune system how to recognise specific cancer cells.

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Where there 'universal' part of all this comes in is in the way that the immune system is taught. The process can be programmed for any cancer - you only need the cancer's genetic RNA code.

It is then injected into fat cells and placed into the bloodstream. The body's immune system then reacts by creating killer T-cells which can destroy cancerous cells.

The breakthrough comes from researchers at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Germany, led by Professor Ugur Sahin.

The team have so far only tested the therapy on mice and a few select human subjects.

Tests on the mice found a strong immune system response against even the most aggressive cancers while the tests on humans were simply designed to prove that the therapy could be tolerated by the body with minimal side effects.

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Cancer immunotherapy is causing something of a stir in the scientific community. It's a method which actually uses your body's own defenses to defeat the disease, which in turn then means it's less intrusive than other conventional treatments like chemotherapy.

T-cells are fantastically effective at fighting back infections - they have an almost X-ray ability to see inside a cell and detect if it's a danger or not, unfortunately they're not originally designed to tackle cancer cells.

What this therapy effectively does is hack into the immune system and simply reprogramme the T-cells, so instead of fighting something like flu it starts attacking cancer cells instead.

What makes this method really special is that once injected it would not only defeat the present cancer outbreak but then prevent it from appearing again in the future.

At present the therapy is in the early stages of development and so larger human trials will be needed to determine if the therapy is effective in much larger doses.

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