A promising new vaccine, administered as a nasal spray, is being developed to treat head and neck cancers. It is one of a growing number of vaccines developed in the last few years to fight cancer.
When a person develops cancer, the body mounts an immune response against the renegade cells but it is often too weak to halt their spread. So, to supplement radiation and chemotherapy treatment, scientists have been working to develop vaccines to boost the body’s natural defenses against the tumors. Two promising vaccines in late-stage human trials target prostate cancer and metastatic melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Another vaccine in the pipeline is designed to treat solid tumors that form in the mucosal tissues that line passages in the head, neck, lungs and genitals. The tissues produce a thick lubricating fluid containing powerful chemicals that normally protect against infection. Unfortunately, they also block the immune cells that would otherwise fight the cancerous tumors. Now researchers have developed a nasal spray vaccine which overcomes this resistance, activating and mobilizing a specific type of immune cell, called a CD8+ T-cell, in the tissue at the tumor site.
Eric Tartour, a researcher with the Universite Paris Descarte, led a team studying the effectiveness of the intranasal spray on solid mucosal tumors in mice.
He says the tumors developed after the mice were infected with a strain of human papilloma virus that’s known to cause cancer.
“The tumor shrank,” said Tartour. “And we also analyzed the tumors after they shrank. And they were heavily infiltrated by immune cells which destroyed the tumors.”