Photo: DTU Vet

Pigs, killer cells and tissue type molecules will lead to effective cancer vaccines

Thursday 10 Jul 14
The Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production has granted DKK 5.7 million to a new project headed up by DTU Vet. The aim is to use pigs for developing vaccines that make the immune system attack cancer cells.

By Mette Buck-Jensen

Using experiments in pigs, a new research project funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production will try to identify the optimal vaccine combination which can stimulate the human immune system to form cytotoxic T cells that specifically attack cancer cells.

The project is managed by DTU Vet's Section for Immunology and Vaccinology which boasts extensive knowledge and experience with studying the immune system of pigs.

“Today, primarily mice are used in the work to develop cancer vaccines, but the human immune system differs considerably from that of mice. The porcine immune system, however, is similar to that of humans in several respects and we will therefore accelerate the development of cancer vaccines by using pigs to test whether we achieve the correct activation of the immune system with the vaccine,” says Professor Gregers Jungersen, project manager from DTU Vet.

First of all, vaccines consisting of cancer antigens and various combinations of immunologic adjuvants will be tested in healthy pigs.

"By using recombinant MHC molecules, following vaccinations we are able to monitor the development of cytotoxic T cells capable of specifically recognizing and killing cancer cells based on their cell surface,” explains Gregers Jungersen.

Cooperation in Denmark and internationally.
In collaboration with the University of Illinois in the USA, the study will also involve transgenic pigs which overexpress human oncogenes and thus can be used as animal models for cancer. Selected vaccine candidates will be tested on these pigs, which will provide an opportunity to follow the development of the immune system as well as the effect of the vaccine during progressive cancer.

“We expect the results from the pig models to accelerate the development of cancer vaccines and in future be of great importance to cancer prevention and treatment,” says Gregers Jungersen.

In addition to DTU Vet, the project group consists of researchers from DTU, the University of Copenhagen and Herlev Hospital. The project is entitled Accelerating development of vaccines against cancer with pigs as a large animal model (CANVACPIG), and it runs from 1 July 2014 to 31 December 2017.

The project has a budget of DKK 5.7 million and is financed by the Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production.