Researchers at the University of Michigan developed an impressive new way of delivering customized therapeutic cancer vaccines using antigen-carrying nanodiscs. The treatment showed excellent success in mice, drastically decreasing the occurrence of colon and melanoma tumours.

Cancer represents the second leading cause of death in developed countries worldwide, right after cardiovascular diseases. Tremendous efforts have been directed towards prevention, diagnosis and treatment of various cancers, one of the most recent approaches being peptide-based cancer vaccines. Despite the initial hype, these vaccines proved disappointing in terms of efficacy in humans, due to inefficient delivery of antigens to lymph nodes.

In a study published in Nature Materials just after Christmas, researchers at the University of Michigan revealed their creative new twist to the peptide-based vaccines. They developed so called high-density lipoprotein-mimicking nanodiscs coupled with multiple cancer-specific antigens and adjuvants that provoked a 47-fold greater immune response than soluble vaccines.

“We are basically educating the immune system with these nanodiscs so that immune cells can attack cancer cells in a personalized manner,” said James Moon of University of Michigan.

The multi-epitope approach also generated a desired broad-spectrum T-cell response with 27% of total T-cells targeting the tumours, eliminating them in mice in only 10 days. Even after re-inserting the tumours after 70 days, the crafty nanodiscs did the job with flying colours.

“This suggests the immune system ‘remembered’ the cancer cells for long-term immunity,” said study leader Rui Kuai.

This innovative new approach to drug delivery could serve as a bright example for future endeavors in personalized nanomedicine and truly represents thinking outside of the – khm – liposme.

Learn more about tumour immunology and immunotherapy by watching the video bellow:


By Luka Zupančič, MSc, University of Applied Sciences Technikum Vienna