The vaccine, developed by researchers at the Cincinnati Cancer Center and the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute, consists of manipulated tumor cells designed to produce interleukin-15 (or IL-15) and IL-15R alpha.
IL-15 is a protein, naturally occurring in humans, that encourages a cell-killing response from the human immune system. IL-15R alpha is the protein's receptor.
Researchers found that when the vaccine was given to mice, breast and prostate tumor cell growth was slowed and survival rates increased -- the protein and receptor effectively making their way to the tumor cells and signaling the immune system to "sic 'em."
“We showed that the presence of both IL-15 with its receptor IL-15R alpha increased the cell-surface production and secretion of IL-15, and in turn, stopped tumor cells from reproducing,” Dr. John Morris, the study’s principal investigator, said in news release. "Additionally, this provides evidence needed to begin investigating a vaccine in human cancer clinical trials to determine whether genetically modified tumor cells producing IL-15 and IL-15Rα may induce anti-cancer responses."
The vaccine has been approved for clinical trials in humans battling melanoma, a type of skin cancer, as well as renal cancer, or cancer of the kidneys.
Details of the vaccine study were published Thursday in the journal Gene Therapy.