MUSC researchers developing oral cancer vaccine


Researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are developing a new type of personalized vaccine to prevent recurrences of oral cancer.

The work is being led by Drs. Angela Yoon and Jason Newman and Shikhar Mehrotra, PhD. The team’s early work is being funded by the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center. 

Yoon’s research involves isolating immune cells that have responded to immunotherapy to treat squamous cell oral cancer. The isolated immune cells, which have been expanded and strengthened, are injected back into the patient so they can respond at the first sign that the cancer has returned. This research builds on previous work led by Yoon, which showed that a cream approved for skin cancer, imiquimod, could shrink tumors ahead of surgery.

Newman meanwhile will remove tumors from patients, from which Yoon will take a sample of and provide to Mehrotra. Mehrotra will locate immune cells that have shown a response to the cancer and multiply them into memory T-cells tuned to the specific profile of the patient’s cancer. 

Should the project succeed, patients would need a yearly injection of the personalized vaccine, Yoon added. The team’s goal is to apply for investigational new drug approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and then apply for a grant to enable clinical trials.

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