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Dendritic Cell Vaccines


Jack Bui, MD, PhD
Director, Stem Cell Processing Laboratory
Associate Professor, UC San Diego School of Medicine


This project could confirm the efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines as a cellular therapy and advance these vaccines to clinical trials. This project aims to speed translation of these breakthroughs from laboratory bench to proven treatment for more individuals with cancer. Funding for this project was generously provided by the Kimmelman Family.

The Need
Many groups have heralded immunotherapy as the next step in cancer treatment. Indeed, Science considered immune therapies the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year. However, immunotherapy is not a monolithic branch of cancer research, but rather represent a variety of approaches that use the immune system to attack cancer: some immunotherapeutics rely on adaptive immune response from T cells, others focus on checkpoint inhibitors or use genetic engineering to help T cells target cancer. Another option is vaccination to activate antitumor immunity.

The Opportunity
Jack Bui, MD, PhD, and his team are investigating dendritic cell vaccines that make neoantigen (NeoAg)-specific T cells, more powerful and plentiful. Using cells taken from patients with cancer, Dr. Bui hopes to develop a standardized protocol for generating vaccines that can be used for cellular therapy, testing the efficacy of different methods for producing dendritic cell vaccines that can encourage T cell activity, and converting cancer cells into dendritic cells by reprogramming transcription factors.


Specifically, Dr. Bui wants to create the ideal cancer vaccine, consisting of cancer antigens, activated antigen presenting cells, and adjuvants to increase and recruit innate immune cells. This vaccine will use patient cells engineered with tumor-specific antigens that stimulate cancer- targeting T cells. Previous vaccines of this kind have had limited efficacy because they include a high proportion of irrelevant proteins. However, genome and exome sequencing may help make more targeted dendritic cell vaccines using neoantigen identification and genetic engineering to eliminate superfluous materials in the final vaccine product.

The Impact
These efforts could confirm the efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines as a cellular therapy and advance these vaccines to clinical trials. This project aims to speed translation of these breakthroughs from laboratory bench to proven treatment for more individuals with cancer.