In the field of regenerative medicine, induced pluripotent stem cells have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. One of them may be teaching the immune system how to beat back cancer.

In research that could open a new frontier in the young field of cancer immunotherapy, Stanford University scientists have found that inoculating mice with stem cells that have been inactivated by radiation boosted the animals’ defenses against cancers of the breast, lungs and skin.

And when administered alongside an immune booster in use among humans, a vaccine of inactivated stem cells prevented cancer from recurring and spreading in mice that had tumors removed. The vaccines that showed promise were made with normal skin or blood cells taken from the mice and then reprogrammed to their primitive form, when they had the potential to become many different kinds of cells. A vaccine based on these induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, is years from fruition or may not pan out.

But if it does, it could be administered prophylactically to patients at high risk of developing cancers because of their genetic makeup or their risky behaviors such as smoking. Or it might be administered to cancer patients after their tumor’s out-of-control growth has been disrupted by surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The study was published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Los Angeles Times