As it stands, tumor-associated antigens (TAAs) often elicit either a very weak immune response, or no immune response. We've studied in class how smallpox viruses have a remarkably large virion and large chain of genomic material. Its genome allows for the insertion of several genes, including ones that can code for TAAs as well as for proteins that help stimulate T-cell response. After vaccination, the modified smallpox virus can produce both the tumor-associated antigens as well as co-stimulatory T-cell proteins, so that T-cells can better learn to recognize TAAs and respond against preexisting TAAs (from real cancer cells) in the body.
This wouldn't be a typical vaccine in the sense that it would prevent disease; rather, it would help treat preexisting cancer and help the immune system mount a more effective response against cancerous cells. A pilot study testing the vaccine in humans has showed promising results, and the vaccine is currently being further researched. Although it may not be an end-all cure for cancer as of yet, I think it could be a major step in that direction - no matter what, it certainly acts as an effective mediator of cancer, which is encouraging for everyone.
Published study here
- Elena Higuchi