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Study Suggests Smallpox Vaccine Could Help Fight Mesothelioma
Smallpox was once a global scourge, killing millions of people. A component of the same vaccine that basically wiped out that disease is showing promise in helping attack mesothelioma cells, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
Inside the Study
The March issue of the medical journal OncoImmunology features a study conducted by the university researchers. They injected the vaccinia virus into mice to see if it would help boost their immune systems’ ability to attack mesothelioma tumors. Vaccinia was first used in the smallpox vaccine in 1967. Within a decade, the disease was basically eliminated.
One of the reasons why mesothelioma is so difficult to treat is that cancerous cells can conceal themselves from the immune system. As a result, the body’s “cancer killer” cells cannot find them. The purpose of the study was to see if researchers could find a way to expose and attack mesothelioma cells.
They implanted a molecule known as CXCL11 into the virus so it could reveal mesothelioma cells and make them vulnerable. CXCL11 is a protein that attracts the cells that attack cancerous cells.
According to the researchers, mice that were injected with the vaccinia/CXCL11 combination lived longer than ones that did not receive an injection. Their immune systems also became stronger and more effective in attacking cancer cells.
This obviously does not mean that an anti-mesothelioma vaccine is right around the corner, but this is a very encouraging sign.