Clinical trials have begun using the first synthetically made vaccine that targets carbohydrates on the surface of prostate cancer cells.
Normally, cancer vaccines focus on proteins that, while relatively easy to produce, are difficult for antibodies to reach because they often are lodged within cells. Carbohydrates are easier to reach, but they are difficult to synthesize and their immunogenicity is poorly understood.
However, researchers at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York have synthesized two key tumor carbohydrate antigens, known as TF and Tn. To produce the vaccine, the researchers clustered the antigens as they occur naturally and attached them to proteins that will aid in eliciting an immune response.