The international study was carried out by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, US, and the University of Leeds. Using a molecule called APOBEC3B, scientists forced cancer cells in the laboratory to evolve much more rapidly than usual. APOBEC3B is often used by tumours to drive rapid genetic change and drug resistance. These highly mutated cancer cells could then be used to create a vaccine for each individual cancer type, which amplified the effects of immunotherapy. The vaccine was found to cure mice with a variety of otherwise treatment-resistant tumours.
The findings, which were published in Nature Communications journal, are the first to show that APOBEC3B’s role in driving cancer evolution can be used to create vaccines that can boost the immune response.