New Cancer Vaccine Uses Patients’ Own Cells to Trigger Immune Response

By Amanda Moises

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have developed a promising new vaccine that uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight against cancer. Essentially, cells from a patient’s tumor are manipulated to induce an immune response against other tumors in the body, targeting the unique mutations only present in each individual. To make the vaccines, researchers sifted through patients’ blood to find optimal precursor cells that were then grown in a colony of dendritic cells. Dendritic cells aid the immune system by ingesting harmful material, such as tumors, and presenting them to T-cells to trigger a specific T-cell response.

This strategy was tested in a clinical trial of 25 patients, who received one dose of the vaccine every three weeks for over six months. About half of the patients showed large numbers of T-cells reacting to tumor material, indicating a good response to the vaccine. In fact, the 2-year survival rate of these patients was 100%, while it was only 25% in the patients who did not have a good response. For example, one patient started the trial with stage 4 ovarian cancer, but after two years of vaccinations, she became disease-free for five years. Despite the significant implications of this trial, cancer vaccines have always had mixed responses due to the advanced molecular defenses tumors have against immune attacks. However, the results of this new research can be used to develop future treatments against cancer.


University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. (2018, April 11). Personalized tumor vaccine shows promise in pilot trial: Vaccine against patients' own tumors triggers a broad response, and induced five-year remission in one patient with advanced ovarian cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2018 from