Breakthrough in development of therapeutic vaccines
13 January 2010
The lack of compounds that stimulate the immune system has
hindered the development of therapeutic vaccines. These vaccines have
the potential to create both cheap and effective drugs for diseases like
cancer and allergies. However, there has now been a major breakthrough
in this area.
The study, led by Swedish scientists at Uppsala University, was
published in the December issue of the journal Vaccine .
Many of the treatment methods that are developed today for allergies,
cancer, and autoimmune diseases are based on the use of so-called
monoclonal antibodies. The cost of these protein pharmaceuticals is
high, between 15 000 and 150 000 dollars per patient and year, and long
periods of treatment are often needed. Therapeutic vaccines contain no
pre-produced antibodies but rather stimulate our immune system to
produce its own therapeutic antibodies. They are considerably less
expensive to manufacture than the drugs that are now being produced.
“Therapeutic vaccines that target the same molecules in the body as
the various monoclonal antibodies would enable us to reduce the cost of
treatment significantly, and also decrease the number of visits patients
need to make to the clinic,” says Lars Hellman, professor of molecular
and comparative immunology at the Department of Cell and Molecular
Biology, Uppsala University, who directed the study.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to developing therapeutic
vaccines has been the lack of so-called adjuvants, immune-stimulating
substances that are added to boost the effect of the vaccine. Until now,
there has been only one adjuvant that is approved for use in humans, and
this substance has proven to have little or no effect when the target
molecule is endogenous, that is, produced by the body itself. To develop
new and more potent adjuvants, researchers from Uppsala University, in
collaboration with colleagues from the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute
in Moscow, have performed comprehensive analyses of various potential
“We have made a very important breakthrough by managing to identify a
substance that is biologically degradable and that exhibits considerably
higher activity than the adjuvants that have been used in the past,”
says Lars Hellman.
“These new and highly promising findings are an important step toward
developing more cost-effective drugs for some of our major public health
diseases,” he says.
1. Maria Ringvalla, Elisabeth J.M. Huijbersa, Parvin Ahooghalandaric,
Ludmila Alekseevab, Tatyana Andronovab, Anna-Karin Olssona and Lars
Hellman. Identification of potent biodegradable adjuvants that
efficiently break self-tolerance — A key issue in the development of
therapeutic vaccines. Vaccine, Volume 28, Issue 1, 10 December
2009, Pages 48-52.