Anti-cancer vaccines have a spotty history, which is too bad, because they sound so promising in theory: Remove some cancer cells, remove some immune system cells, put them together, train the immune cells to recognize the cancer cells as bad guys, shove them all back into the body, and watch the fun.
They haven't worked as well as hoped, but it seems like every failure has come with an anouncement that it tught researchers something new.
So here's the latest "something new," from Stanford: most cancer cells use the surface protein CD47 as a "Don' Eat Me!" signal. The immune system cells enounter the CD47 and leave it alone. The Stanford researchers have found that anti-CD47 antibodies can block that signal and allow an immune cell called a macrofage to attack the cell. Even better -- as it happens, the macrofage gives a tap on the should to some other, more powerful immune cells called CD8+ T cells and says "You want in on this?" And then the two work together to attack the cancer. The T cell involvement was a very pleasant surprise -- that's the cell that vaccine researchers have been hoping to spur into action.
The Stanford researchers hope to have a clinical trial in p;lace in 2014. You can read a full description of all of this at this link.