Induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, are a keystone of regenerative medicine. Outside the body, they can be coaxed to become many different types of cells and tissues that can help repair damage due to trauma or disease. Now, a study in mice from the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests another use for iPS cells: training the immune system to attack or even prevent tumors.
The results suggest it may one day be possible to vaccinate an individual with his or her own iPS cells to protect against the development of many types of cancer.
The iPS cells work as an anti-cancer vaccine because, like many cancer cells, they resemble developmentally immature progenitor cells, which are free from the growth restrictions built into mature cells that make up the body’s tissues. Injecting iPS cells that genetically match the recipient, but that are unable to replicate, can safely expose the immune system to a variety of cancer-specific targets, the researchers found.
“We’ve learned that iPS cells are very similar on their surface to tumor cells,” said Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, director of Stanford’s Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology. “When we immunized an animal with genetically matching iPS
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