Highly focused vaccine therapies for cancer could be produced in the future, thanks to the identification of an important new protein target, researchers have announced.
Scientists based at Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute have pinpointed a protein unique to dendritic cells – cells which are responsible for triggering the body’s defence system against disease-carrying pathogens.
Researchers have been searching for such proteins – or “tags” – for more than 30 years but have found very few. It is hoped that new vaccines will be able to home in on the DNGR-1 “tag” and direct the body’s immune system to specifically attack cancer cells and other pathogens, including HIV or malaria.
Cancer vaccines targeting DNGR-1 will consist of two parts. The first will contain a copy of a unique cancer molecule – the message of “who” to attack. The second part will be a chemical called an adjuvant, which will tell the dendritic cell that the cancer molecule is not safe, and that it should command the T cell armies to attack it.
“The results of this research are an important step towards understanding how to create targeted cancer vaccines in the future,” said Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information for Cancer Research UK.
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