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Apr 26, 2017 10:45 AM EDT

Cancer has a new enemy and its small but lethal - nanoparticle vaccine immunotherapy. According to scientists who developed it, this cancer treatment method is simple and not as costly as other types of treatments. The best part, however, is that it fights different types of cancer.

Scientists at the UT Southwestern Medical Center have developed the first-ever nanoparticle vaccine immunotherapy that helps the body strengthen itself and fight cancer cells that attack it.

Jinming Gao, a Professor of Pharmacology and Otolaryngology in UT Southwestern's Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and one of the authors of the study, said that this cancer treatment method is unique because of its simplicity as well as its precision - it travels directly to the body's lymph nodes and activates the tumor immune defense system of the body.

The nanovaccine consists of tumor antigens or proteins that are placed inside a synthetic single-polymer nanoparticle. The antigens inside it can be easily identified by the immune system. They precisely deliver these tumor proteins straight to the immune cells stimulating them to strengthen their immune response.

Dr. Zhijian Chen, the co-author of the study and a professor of Molecular Biology and Director of the Center for Inflammation Research, said that for the nanoparticle vaccine to be effective, they have to deliver the antigens to the specific cells which are inside specialized immune cells called antigen-presenting cells. Once the nanoparticles reached the targeted compartments, the immunity is activated.

In this particular experiment, the nanoparticle vaccine immunotherapy activates the STING, an adaptor protein which stimulates the immune system to fight the cancer cells.

The scientists tested the vaccine on several types of cancer models in mice including, melanoma, HPV-related cancers o f the neck, head, and cervix as well as colorectal cancer.

This new breakthrough provides hope since cancer remains to be the leading cause of death worldwide. Moreover, it also provides more methods that are less costly than the present-day existing treatments.

The study is published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. 

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