3 Dec 2015

Designing a vaccine for ovarian cancer

By Dr Jodie Abramovitch

Ovarian cancer (OC) is the fifth most common cause of cancer-related death among women. Detection of OC is difficult with diagnosis often occurring at an advanced stage. Many women who have undergone conventional treatment, involving surgery and chemotherapy, have a poor prognosis for the 5 years post-treatment.

Past and present members of the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases
Laboratory. (L-R) Sue Xiang, Ying Ying Kong, Rohimah
Mohamud, Qian Gao, Kirsty Wilson, Mutsa Madondo,
Chindu Govindaraj, Magda Plebanski
Dr Sue Xiang and other members of the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases laboratory under Professor Magdalena Plebanski in the Department of Immunology and Pathology are working on developing an effective peptide-based vaccine for OC. Peptide vaccines can induce highly specific immune responses which limits adverse side effects. In two recent studies, they characterised peptides from the human Sp17 protein which is expressed abnormally in many OC cases.


Mice were immunised with peptides from the Sp17 protein and the responding immune cells were analysed. This revealed that one particular region of the Sp17 protein was able to induce the production of antibodies and a protective cytokine (IFN-γ; pro-inflammatory) response. When using this region of Sp17 in a vaccine, tumour progression was significantly delayed in an OC tumour mouse model.

These initial studies suggest that this region of Sp17 may have therapeutic potential and be able to be utilised as a vaccine target against OC. 

Reference: Xiang SD, Gao Q, Wilson KL, Heyerick A, Plebanski MMapping T and B cell epitopes in sperm protein 17 to support the development of an ovarian cancer vaccine. Vaccine. 2015 Nov; 33: 5950-9
doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.07.094

Reference: Xiang SD, Gao Q, Wilson KL, Heyerick A, Plebanski MA Nanoparticle Based Sp17 Peptide Vaccine Exposes New Immuno-Dominant and Species Cross-reactive B Cell Epitopes. Vaccines. 2015 Oct; 3: 875-893
doi:10.3390/vaccines3040875

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