Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most prevalent form of primary liver cancer. It is frequently diagnosed in the advanced stages, when it can no longer be operated on, leading to a strikingly high case fatality rate. Recently, immunotherapy has emerged as a successful treatment for cancer. This project focuses on the conjugation of GPC3, an antigen expressed by the majority of HCCs, along with the inflammatory protein CIRP, to produce a vaccine that is able to trigger an immune system response to destroy carcinoma cells in the liver.
- To develop a vaccine containing GPC3 and linked to CIRP, to strengthen the immune system response in HCC patients and become an effective treatment against the disease.
Problem to Solve
The number of HCC patient deaths per year and its annual incidence are almost the same, highlighting how aggressive HCC is and the lack of any effective treatment. Current therapeutic strategies rely on surgery, transplants, local and systemic treatments, which provide only modest survival benefits. This means that new therapies are urgent required.
Immunotherapy is a powerful tool that has recently been shown to prolong survival and can even treat advanced cancer patients. Therefore, an innovative therapy approach for HCC by targeting the immune system, instead of focusing directly on tumour cells, may result in cancer rejection.
CIRP is an inflammatory protein able to trigger an immune system response by activating dendritic cells. The conjugation of CIRP with factors specifically conceived to contain HCC antigens enhances its immunogenicity in vivo. When the antigen-CIRP conjugate is delivered to murine cancer models, this results in tumour rejection.
Level of InnovationA range of immune-based strategies are showing promising results in oncology, but no immunotherapy has yet been approved for liver cancer. This means the GPC3-CIRP conjugate is an innovative vaccine for this condition.