‘Cancer-killing vaccine’ shows ‘promising’ signs in preventing tumour

Brain tumour: Cancer Research UK on 'different types' in 2017

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Dr Khalid Shah, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said: “Our team has pursued a simple idea: to take cancer cells and transform them into cancer killers.” Dr Shah elaborated: “Using gene engineering, we are repurposing cancer cells to develop a therapeutic that kills tumour cells and stimulates the immune system.” The goal would be that the cancer “vaccine” would “destroy primary tumours and prevent cancer”.

How the cancer vaccine works

The dual action therapy involves a gene editing tool called CRISP-CAS9, which works like a pair of molecular scissors.

It works by cutting DNA at specific locations and deleting sections of code to replace it with alternative sequencing.

In experiments, where mice had the deadliest form of brain cancer (glioblastoma), the repurposing of cancer cells led to “promising” results.

The experiment was considered safe, applicable, and effective in rodent models, suggesting a roadmap toward therapy.

The breakthrough raises hopes of “editing” DNA in the brain with a vaccine – without any tissue having to be removed.

Dr Shah said: “Throughout all of the work we do, even when it is highly technical, we never lose sight of the patient.

“Our goal is to take an innovative but translatable approach so that we can develop a therapeutic, cancer-killing vaccine that ultimately will have a lasting impact in medicine.”


The Brain Tumour Charity says: “A glioblastoma is the most common high-grade primary brain tumour in adults.”

Treatments typically involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and medication.

The grade four brain tumour grows quickly, is likely to spread, and can return following current treatment.

Symptoms of glioblastoma can include:

  • Headaches, caused by pressure in the brain
  • Personality changes
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Trouble speaking or understanding
  • Tiredness
  • Depression
  • Trouble thinking
  • Seizures
  • Sight problems.

The charity adds: “The causes of brain tumours are still being investigated.”

However, risk factors for the cancerous mass includes inherited genetic risk, obesity, having HIV, older age (people aged 75 years and over), and having a previous cancer.

The NHS states that only stage three and stage four brain tumours are considered cancerous.

It is possible for people to have stage one or stage two brain tumours that are benign.

These types of brain cancers grow slowly and are less likely to return after treatment.

Anybody experiencing symptoms of a brain tumour are encouraged to ‘see a GP’, who might refer you to a neurologist for further testing.

“More than 11,000 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour in the UK each year, of which about half are cancerous,” the NHS says.

“Many others are diagnosed with a secondary brain tumour.”

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