Tumor-suppressing immunotherapy: Cool or crazy?

Parents have been insisting that you give your children a shot — and now major companies are getting on board.

Tumor-suppressing immune peptides and autoantibodies are at the forefront of a new wave of antibacterial immunotherapy treatments — including the world’s first cellular vaccine against a new microbial autoantibody not seen before, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last week.

This news brings to mind the infamous Hoffa vaccine, given to members of the Teamsters that controlled private railroads in the early 20th century, as it could offer improvements over traditional vaccines for health care professionals and/or even patients. That vaccine was halted in 1948, just a few years after its introduction because of potential side effects including necrotizing fasciitis (rapid death due to amputation or deep tissue damage), sepsis, asthma and flu-like illness.

Through relatively small, pilot tests of the vaccine, doctors have found that when injected in people who have been infected with the new omicron variant microbe, it made blood cells capable of attacking and containing the infection.

Researchers also found that when testing a similar vaccine against another microbe called NDM, the peptide was also present in a person’s red blood cells.

(The NDM variant is characterized by a gene mutation that allows the bug to replicate more quickly than normal, making it a difficult bug to eradicate, and it has become the world’s deadliest cause of food poisoning. However, NDM-1 bacteria were never encountered by physicians in the first few decades of diagnostic advances that have made it to our bloodstreams.)

For some time, researchers have been hoping to study blood transfusions as they are used in place of using bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections. And a flu vaccine could be developed, the CDC said, since seasonal flu vaccines are “inadequate.”

Think of the vaccines tested against omicron as a “boost” to the current flu vaccine, with a potential to “prime” the immune system to fight off illness in people who suffer from type-1 diabetes.

“We expect it will be useful in terms of preventing outbreaks of serious infection in patients with compromised immune systems, but we’re unsure what the actual long-term impact might be,” said Gregory Poland, a scientist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and principal investigator of this study.

Initial data shows that the new peptide vaccine made a difference in the treatment of these particular infections, thanks to the way the peptide encourages body cells to attack and suppress the origin of the infections.

The new omicron test and the peptide vaccine will be the next frontier in both the field of vaccine research and in health care itself, according to a senior project scientist for the Office of Science at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Fred Kappler said, “It’s really critical that we have the technologies available to us to be able to translate drug discovery into innovation for disease.”

How this could affect us now and going forward will be brought to a vote of the American public through the FDA.

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