Immune System Discovery Could Help Create Vaccine Against Mono, Some Cancers

First Posted: Oct 11, 2013 11:42 PM EDT

A recent study looks at the possible development of a vaccine that could help prevent mono and even some cancers. For instance, the development of a vaccine against Epstein-Bar virus (EBV) has taken a step forward via this Canadian discovery of how EBV infection escapes detection via the immune system.

The study notes that EBV causes infectious mononucleosis and cancers including Hodgkin's lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, which is the most common cancer in China, as well as opportunistic cancers in people with weakened immune systems.

Researchers found that this virus often triggers molecular events that turn off key proteins that make infected cells invisible to the natural killer T (NKT) immune cells that eradicate EBV-infected cells.

"If you can force these invisible proteins to be expressed, then you can render infected cells visible to NKT cells, and defeat the virus. This could be key to making a vaccine that would provide immunity from ever being infected with EBV," Dr. Rusung Tan, the study's principal investigator. Dr. Tan is a scientist and director of the Immunity in Health & Disease research group at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital, and a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of British Columbia said, via a press release.

Researchers involved in the study looked at cells from infected tonsils that had been removed from patients at BC Children's Hospital by Dr. Frederick Kozak. The researchers then infected the tonsils with EBV, and then worked to combine some of the cells with NKT cells. They found that more NKT cells led to fewer EBV-infected cells that can create an absence of NKT cells with an associated increase in EBV-infected cells.

More information regarding the study can be found via the scientific journal Blood.

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