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Stanford cancer researchers Ronald Levy and Idit Sagiv-Barfi in the lab

In pre-clinical study, Stanford researchers use cancer “vaccine” to eliminate tumors

Stanford researchers led work on a possible cancer vaccine that involves injecting two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors.

When we were away, a pretty important cancer study was published - and the world took notice. Dozens of media outlets covered the work, which appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine, and our article on the Stanford research quickly became our 2nd most viewed article of all time.

As my colleague Krista Conger described in her story, researchers Ronald Levy MD, a pioneer in the field of cancer immunotherapy, and Idit Sagiv-Barfi, MD, led pre-clinical studies suggesting that a cancer “vaccine” may be an effective way to eliminate tumors. The technique, which was tested in mice, involves the injection of small amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into tumors and, Conger explained:

The researchers believe the local application of very small amounts of the agents could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.

'When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,' said Levy.  'This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.'

“This is a very important study,” immunologist Keith Knutson, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, told Science  about the work. “It provides a good pretext for going into humans.”

The researchers are now planning a clinical trial involving about 15 patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma; more information can be found on this Stanford Cancer Institute page.

Photo of Ron Levy and Idit Sagiv-Barfi by Steve Fisch

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