Scientists at Monash and Melbourne universities have developed a synthetic protein fragment or peptide, that could be used to produce a more effective cancer vaccine.
Immunologists previously have used synthetic peptides to stimulate immunity to viruses and cancers where naturally-occurring peptides were failing. However, many of these peptides have been unstable and degraded in the blood and peripheral tissues.
Associate Professor Mibel Aguilar and Dr Patrick Perlmutter from Monash and Dr Tony Purcell from the University of Melbourne have developed technology that stabilises synthetic peptides, increasing their ability to reach the target area and improve the immune response.
They have received $1.2 million funding from Circadian Technologies Ltd to further test the peptide and develop a cancer vaccine.
The technology, which has been tested in mice, will soon be tested in laboratories on peptides designed to target immune responses to human melanoma cancer cells.
During infection, or the transformation of cells into tumour cells, virus- or tumour-specific peptides are presented on the surface of cells. T cells (white blood cells that help fight infection) are able to recognise these peptides and eradicate the dangerous cells.
Synthetic peptides accurately mimic these naturally-occurring peptides, and could be used to stimulate an immune response to tumour cells.
The researchers believe the vaccine could be applicable to a range of cancers, including breast, ovarian and bladder cancer.
As well as developing the cancer vaccine, the researchers are investigating why their peptides appear to be superior to current synthetic peptides. This will help determine whether the technology could be used to develop other vaccines.
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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