The results are presented in the online edition of the prestigious scientific journal Nature Medicine, and represent the collaborative efforts of researchers at KI and Leiden University Medical Centre in Holland.
The study analysed an immunological cell, a T cell, which recognises other cells with defects common to metastasing ones. These defects (which are found in MHC class 1 molecules) allow the tumour cell to evade the "conventional" T cell-mediated immune defence.
The researchers have identified a short peptide molecule that the T cell in the study recognises. Using this peptide, the researchers can vaccinate and protect against the spread of tumours from different tissues, including melanoma, colon cancer, lymphoma, and fibrosarcoma.
"So far we've only conducted research on mice, so it's too early to get out hopes up too much," says research scientist Elisabeth Wolpert at the Microbiology and Tumour Biology Centre. "However, the study does point towards new possible ways of developing a treatment for advanced tumour diseases."
The newly published study is a continuation of an original discovery that first identified the TEIPP-T cell and that was presented in Ms Wolpert's doctoral thesis at Karolinska Institutet in 1998.
The spread of tumours, or metastases, is the most common cause of death from cancer.