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Head and neck cancer vaccine targets proteins to create immune response

LOS ANGELES, April 17 Most attempts to create therapeutic cancer vaccines are based on custom-made approaches that use a patient's own tumor cells to generate a strong immune response against cancer. However, developing these kinds of personalized vaccines is time-consuming, expensive and often impractical. Using an alternative approach, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) in collaboration with the Gunma University School of Medicine in Japan, have developed a vaccine strategy for head and neck cancer that targets multiple peptides (parts of proteins) to activate the immune system to attack tumors. Their findings, abstract number 5113, will be included in a press briefing on cancer vaccines at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, April 14-18, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The researchers created the vaccine to target a tumor suppressor gene called p53, which is mutated in most cancers and associated with poor clinical outcomes. Previous research has determined that mutated p53 also expresses unaltered, or "wild-type," p53 peptides in tumors. When presented on dendritic cells, these wild-type p53 peptides may induce an immune response to strengthen the body's natural defenses against cancer and decrease the chance of cancer recurrence and the formation of secondary tumors.

"The key to our strategy is to select those p53 peptides that can best activate the immune system and induce it to produce immune cells able to recognize and eliminate the tumor," said Theresa Whiteside, Ph.D., who in collaboration with Albert DeLeo, Ph.D., directed the study. Both investigators are professors of pathology and immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "Through animal models and human cells in culture, we have found that this strategy is very effective at stimulating T cells into action," said Dr. Whiteside, who also directs UPCI's Immunologic Monitoring and Cellula
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Contact: Clare Collins
CollCX@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
17-Apr-2007


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