Dendritic cells are powerful immune cells that can be modified to help white blood cells called T cells recognize and fight cancer cells. This modification is achieved by attaching tumor antigens (proteins found on tumor cells) to the dendritic cells and giving them back to a patient, where they can then activate the patient’s T cells against tumor cells, like melanoma.
Prior clinical trials have demonstrated that patients with advanced melanoma who received a dendritic cell vaccine experienced an immune response against their cancer cells. In this study, investigators are evaluating another version of this vaccine — one in which mRNA (messenger RNA, which cells use to make proteins) is inserted into the dendritic cells. This allows the dendritic cell to make the tumor antigen and present more of it to reactive T cells.
The hope is that a dendritic cell vaccine based on this approach will trigger a stronger immune response against melanoma cells than the previous version of the vaccine. The goal of this study is to determine the safety of this new vaccine and see what kind of immune response results when a patient receives it.