A team of researchers at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center has discovered that vaccinating mice with embryonic stem cells can prevent lung cancer.
Their findings, presented at an international cancer symposium in Prague, Czech Republic, suggest that it could be possible to develop embryonic stem cell vaccines that prevent cancers in humans at high risk of developing cancer.
John Eaton, deputy director of the Brown Cancer Center, and Robert Mitchell, assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, presented one of only 10 projects at the conference, which is sponsored by the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer, the National Cancer Institute and the American Association for Cancer Research.
The vaccine, Eaton told a news briefing, has been tested in two ways: by implanting lung cancer cells after vaccination and by using a model of lung cancer that mimics cancer caused by smoking.
"Our results raise the exciting possibility of developing a vaccine capable of preventing the appearance of various types of cancers in humans, especially those with hereditary or environmental predispositions for developing disease," said Eaton, James Graham Brown Professor of Cancer Biology.
Such cancers could include breast cancer, colon cancer or lung cancer caused by smoking and other environmental factors.
He warned, however, that the work is still in its early stages and that, while the results in mice look promising, it could be some time before this approach is tested in humans.
Eaton and Mitchell found that, in the case of implanted lung cancer cells, the vaccine had a consistent effectiveness rate of 80-100 percent in preventing tumor outgrowth. All non-vaccinated control animals developed tumors.
The researchers tried the experiment again four months (equivalent to 10 human years) after the initial vaccination. Mice given lung cancer cells did not develop tumors, suggesting that the effect of the vaccination is long lasting.
In a model of lung cancer development that mimics smoking, mice vaccinated after exposure to carcinogens developed almost no tumors.
The few that did appear were much smaller than those in non-vaccinated mice.
"Our progress over the next few years will depend, to a large extent, on whether we can attract significant funding," Eaton said.