RESEARCH in Switzerland could help reduce the time taken to develop vaccines against cancer tumours.
The Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) has awarded Professor Christian Münz of the University of Zurich a grant for £207,842 to improve vaccines against Burkitt’s lymphoma.
In a bid to improve the immune response in humans, the Director of the Institute of Experimental Immunology, at the University of Zürich and Visiting Professor in the Virology Section, Division of Infectious Diseases, at the Department of Medicine, Imperial College, London is exploring a new strain of mouse which has stronger links to humans than those previously used.
Explained Professor Munz: “Vaccinations are widely used to protect us from serious diseases such a polio or diphtheria. They work by introducing an inactive version or small part of a foreign body such as a virus or bacteria.
“Once inside us, the foreign body often triggers the production of antibodies and immune system cells which can kill or neutralise the potentially harmful invader.
A virus called Epstein Barr virus is linked to an increased incidence of a type of non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma called Burkitt's lymphoma which is more common in Africa than Europe.
“A type of immune system cell called a T cell is thought to be primarily required for protection against tumours. In order to develop vaccines that trigger this type of immune responses, research has to be done in animals like mice.
“However, although genetically mice and humans are quite similar, our immune systems are quite different, which is why some vaccines that look promising in mouse studies, fail to invoke an immune response in humans.”
Professor Münz will use his three-year AICR grant to study the new animal model to try to find a way to get a better immune response - mainly from the T cells - against the Epstein Barr virus which can cause several human lymphomas and carcinomas.
Said Dr Lara Bennett, AICR's Scientific Communications Manager: “Before any vaccines can be given to humans, by law they must first all be tested in animals like mice. It is therefore vital to ensure that these experiments are done under the conditions which most closely resemble the immune reaction that would be triggered in humans which is why this project is so important to help develop better treatments for Burkitt’s lymphoma.”