Mayo Clinic and British researchers have developed a new approach to cancer vaccines that purposely kills healthy skin cells to target the immune system against tumors. The new approach has eradicated skin cancer tumors in mice. The approach and results challenge conventional thinking on the creation of cancer vaccines. Their report on the "heat shock" vaccine therapy appears in the August issue of Nature Biotechnology, Results are promising because multiple rounds of treatment eradicated skin cancer in all the mice in the study. If this work can be extended to humans, it could have enormous benefits. Skin cancer is currently the most common form of cancer in the United States, with an estimated one million new cases diagnosed annually.
Significance of the Mayo Clinic Research
Normally, the destruction of healthy cells is undesirable. For example, in toxic conventional chemotherapies for cancer, the goal is to kill cancer cells and spare healthy cells. This new approach is significant for two reasons:
1) It turns the death of healthy cells into a therapeutic advantage by inflicting a stress known as "inflammatory cell death" on skin cells to which researchers attached a protein involved in heat shock. Researchers were able to trigger a healing immune response aimed at the skin cancer tumors. The response was so strong it eradicated the tumors.
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