Vaccines tailored to match a person’s particular constellation of cancer mutations seem to have fended off tumours in a handful of patients, two small clinical trials show.
The vaccines are described in papers published in Nature on 5 July1, 2. The studies are the first to report that the approach — which is gaining support in academia and industry — could combat cancer in humans. They also provide hints about ways to boost the vaccines’ power by combining them with treatments that target the immune system, called immunotherapies.
“It’s potentially a game changer,” says Cornelis Melief, a cancer immunologist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and author of a commentary accompanying the papers. “The two papers really strongly indicate that the patients experienced clinical benefit.”
In principle, the vaccines are similar to those used against infectious diseases: unique components of a foreign invader — cancer cells, in this case — are …