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Lobachevsky University researchers have developed a vaccine designed to prevent brain tumours. To create the vaccine, scientists from the UNN Neuroscience Research Institute, the Department of General and Medical Genetics and the Department of Biophysics combined dendritic cells from the bone marrow of mice with fragments of the tumour destroyed by photodynamic therapy. Porphyrazine photosensitisers for the destruction of tumour cells were synthesised at the Institute of Organometallic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dendritic cell-based vaccines activate the immune system and help the organism to recognise tumour cells. In the course of the experiment, a tumour was grafted into the brains of vaccinated mice and its development was monitored. In vivo testing of the vaccine showed 75-100% survival rate of mice with glioma, one of the most aggressive tumours that are detected at late stages and are difficult to treat. Unvaccinated animals in control groups died within a short period of time, while the immune system of vaccinated mice successfully fought the tumour.

"Our research group has been investigating the immunogenic properties of these photosensitisers step by step. The work began with the analysis of special signalling molecules that cells release during the process of dying. These are known as danger signals. And precisely these molecules are critically important for the activation of the immune system,"  said Ekaterina Sleptsova,  a researcher at the Brain Development Genetics Laboratory of the UNN Neuroscience Research Institute.

Currently, the activation of cancer patients’ own immune system is used as supportive therapy and as a means to prevent metastasis. However, UNN scientists are confident that the method can be used as a standalone treatment as well.

"We have developed an effective prophylactic vaccine, the next step will be to come up with a vaccine for treating the tumour. This is especially important in cases where surgery is not possible. In the future, the vaccine will use killed tumour cells of a specific patient with cancer, which will make it possible to personalise therapy, to treat the patient rather than the symptoms and consequences of malignant neoplasm development. If successful, the Nizhny Novgorod vaccine will help to make significant progress in the fight against aggressive brain tumours," commented Tikhon Redkin, a member of the Brain Development Genetics Laboratory.

As part of their efforts to develop the medicine, scientists plan to simulate the pathology in laboratory animals and then treat the tumour with an immunogenic vaccine. The study was supported by the Russian Science Foundation. The results were published in the international journal Pharmaceutics.