Vaccine prototype has cancer-fighting potential

9 Jun 2016

A prototype cancer vaccine which could be used against a variety of diseases including leukaemia, melanoma and prostate cancer is being developed in Queensland.

Scientists at Mater Research Institute-University of Queensland (MRI-UQ) and Monash University are using a new approach to harness the body’s immune system to fight disease.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Kristen Radford from MRI-UQ said focusing on dendritic cells – the sentinel cells of the immune system – has paved the way for a potential new class of cancer vaccine.

“Dendritic cells ‘talk’ to the rest of the immune system to tell it to respond to cancer cells,” Associate Professor Radford said.

“We discovered that there is more than one type of dendritic cell and one particular rare type specialises in generating the type of immune response required to fight cancer.

“Our work has centred on developing a special vaccine which will deliver only to these cancer-fighting dendritic cells to launch a targeted immune response.”

Associate Professor Radford said the research team initially tested the theory in the laboratory by using the prototype vaccine against a virus, with promising results.

“Over the next three years we will develop a vaccine for prostate cancer and test it in the lab to ensure it works before we seek industry partners to develop it for commercial use,” Associate Professor Radford said.

“We are at an early phase of this research but it shows a lot of promise and it has the potential to be used in many different types of cancer such as melanoma, prostate cancer and leukaemia.”

Associate Professor Radford said this research follows the development of a prostate cancer vaccine available in the United States.

“The US vaccine involves extracting immune cells from cancer patients, processing them in the lab and then returning them to the patient in the form of the vaccine.

“We trialled a similar process between 2005 and 2010 but it was extremely costly and therefore difficult to replicate widely.

“We believe the dendritic cell approach could overcome some of these cost barriers.”

The US Army, Worldwide Cancer Research UK and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have funded the research.

It has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight.

Media: UQ Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Kim Lyell,, +61 7 3346 5214, 0427 530647.