CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-9917
UI receives National Cancer Institute grant to study immunity against
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa researchers have received a grant
from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to further study how vaccines
can be designed to prevent the growth of cancerous tumors.
The $740,406 grant will support an investigation led by George J. Weiner,
M.D., director of the UI Cancer Center and UI associate professor of internal
medicine. Co-investigators are Arthur M. Krieg, M.D., UI professor of internal
medicine, and Timothy L. Ratliff, Ph.D., UI professor of urology.
"The grant will help us follow a new lead on how we might induce
the patient's own immune system to fight cancer," Weiner said.
The goal of the study is to develop ways of using CpG DNA, a short sequence
of engineered DNA, to produce a stronger immune response to cancer cells,
thus preventing the growth of tumors.
CpG DNA, which was originally described by Krieg, can be produced in
the laboratory but resembles the DNA found in infectious organisms. The
CpG DNA "tricks" the immune system into thinking it is being
invaded by infected cells. When the CpG DNA is mixed with molecules associated
with the cancer cells, the immune systems responds as it would against
an infection but instead attacks the cancer cells, Weiner said. Cancer
cells alone, in contrast, rarely trigger an immune response.
Although the approach is not yet ready for evaluation in patients, Weiner
and his colleagues are hopeful that the work supported by the NCI grant
will lead to advances that will be useful in treating a variety of cancers.