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Implantable cancer vaccine

A small implant can recruit and reprogram a patient's own immune cells "on site" to kill cancer cells

The Wyss Institute’s implantable, biodegradable cancer vaccine leverages immunotherapeutic methods and could one day help overcome melanoma, other cancers, infectious diseases, auto-immune diseases, as well as vaccinate against specific peptides, proteins, or antigens. The implant is a biodegradable polymer scaffold containing growth factors and components of each patient’s tumors.

The technology was initially designed to target cancerous melanoma in skin – in a preclinical study, 50 percent of mice treated with two doses of the vaccine (mice that would have otherwise died from melanoma within about 25 days) showed complete tumor regression. The implantable cancer vaccine is currently being used in a Phase I clinical trial in collaboration with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

It is rare to get a new technology tested in the laboratory and moved into human clinical trials so quickly.

Glenn Dranoff, M.D.
The implantable cancer vaccine technology, developed in collaboration with biologists, clinicians and researchers at the Institute, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, works by reprogramming the immune system to reject cancer cells. Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Most therapeutic cancer vaccines available today require doctors to first remove the patient’s immune cells from the body, then reprogram and introduce them back into the body. The Wyss Institute’s initial approach uses a small disk-like sponge about the size of a fingernail that is made from FDA-approved polymers. The sponge is implanted under the skin, and is designed to recruit and reprogram a patient’s own immune cells “on site,” instructing them to travel through the body, home in on cancer cells, then kill them.

Aside from therapeutic applications, the implantable vaccine could also be used as a diagnostic to identify auto-immune diseases.

This technology is available for licensing.

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