Scientists at Cancer Center Amsterdam have produced a novel cancer vaccination for dogs after 15 years of research, which they believe may pave the door for similar human medicines.

The vaccination targeted a tumor protein called vimentin, eliciting an immunological response in dogs with bladder cancer that attacked cancer growth while also reducing tumors’ ability to evade the immune system.

Its developers anticipate that its effectiveness in dogs may pave the way for a comparable cancer therapy in people.

“The development of this vaccination for the treatment of cancer in humans is promising,” said Arjan Griffioen, a cancer researcher whose team created the vaccine.

Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy, or using the body’s own immune system to combat cancer, has demonstrated results against previously intractable forms of the disease, such as lung cancer.

Immunotherapy strategies include delivering monoclonal antibodies, arming T cells (and, presumably, natural killer cells) to target cancer, and cancer vaccines, with a new generation on the way.

While the immune system is a formidable army, tumours are a particularly hardened target; consider them well-armed and fortified fortresses.

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Tumor cells adopt a variety of strategies to avoid detection by our immune system, including genetic modifications that allow them to hide, proteins that switch off immune cells, launching decoys for T cells to target, and drawing healthy cells around them to mislead the immune system.

All of this is referred to as the tumor’s microenvironment — essentially, the zone within the body that it influences or has taken over.

The tumour microenvironment (TME) is extremely immunosuppressive, according to the researchers’ study, which was published in Nature Communications.

Tumors, however, cannot completely isolate themselves; they require nourishment from the body. The tumor’s convoluted blood tubes distribute blood to keep it growing, much like supply lines feeding an entrenched adversary.

Griffioen and colleagues revealed that the protein vimentin was over-present in tumour blood vessels, including endothelial cells, which line blood vessels and regulate blood flow to other tissues.

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