Cancer Stem Cell-Targeted Vaccines

As the number one killer of human health, cancer and how to treat cancer have been extensively studied. With in-depth understandings in the field, more and more strategies have been put into place, some of which have entered different verification stages. The concept of cancer stem cells is an attractive direction. Creative Biolabs has conducted thorough exploration based on this theory and has always been putting efforts into developing cancer vaccines targeting at cancer stem cells, and has gained a lot of valuable experience and results.

Cancer Stem Cell and Cancer Therapy

Epithelium and hematopoietic system and the like tissues are capable of continuously self-renewing, an ability that comes from the activity of tissue-specific stem cell. These adult stem cells are long-lived and can generate a variety of specialized functional tissue cells continually throughout their life. Similar to normal stem cells, cancer stem cells (CSCs) are also long-lived, a class of cells with anti-apoptotic, self-renewal and differentiation capabilities. These CSCs can express Sox2, c-kit, Oct4, ALDH, Nanog and other stem cell marker genes, which reveal that CSCs play an important role in the development and progression of tumors. At the same time, scientists also generally believe that stem cell tumor microenvironment changes, mutations, epigenetic regulation are also important reasons for the development of CSCs. Chemotherapy is a widely used traditional method of treating cancer, but in addition to causing great pain to patients, this therapy is often accompanied by a recurrence of cancer. Some clinical observations such as leukemia stem cells can enter the cell cycle after chemotherapy, solid tumors can cause recurrence after chemotherapy due to the presence of CSCs, and after genetic ablation of cancer stem cells, glioblastomas is becoming susceptible to chemotherapy. All illustrate the important role of CSCs in tumor development and recurrence. Therefore, more and more evidence supports the hypothesis that CSCs are the cause of recurrence of tumors after successful chemotherapy.

The implication of stem cells in the development and progression of tumor.

Fig.1 The implication of stem cells in the development and progression of tumor. (Bao B and Ahmad A, 2013)

Development of Vaccines Targeting Cancer Stem Cell

The current strategy for treating cancer is to eliminate tumor cells. Based on such considerations, surgical removal of tumors, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy are common and widely used methods, but these approaches have many defects. Immunotherapy uses the human immune system to monitor and clear tumor cells, re-energize and strengthen their effects on tumors, and is becoming the mainstream of cancer treatment today. Vaccines targeting cancer stem cells are an important attempt in this direction. Studies have found that ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) is a specific marker in cancer stem cells of many cancers. Therefore, a team has studied the tumorigenicity and stemness of ALDH-enriched cancer cells on animal models and developed a dendritic cell-based cancer stem cell vaccine from their research conclusions. Such vaccine is prepared by harvesting dendritic cells from mice and pulsing them with ALDH-rich cancer stem cell lysates, and after immunization with the so-made CSC-DC vaccines, CTLs and antibodies that recognize and attack CSCs have been detected. These studies also show that CSC-DCs are able to specifically target CSCs and provide protective immunity against tumor cell challenge in immunized mice. In addition, after inoculation with CSC-DC vaccine in tumor-bearing mice that received radiotherapy or surgical resection on established cancer before vaccination, the probability of tumor recurrence was significantly decreased, the trend of tumor metastasis to the lung was also inhibited, and the survival of the mouse was prolonged. Therefore, combining CSC vaccine with traditional chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery can improve the effectiveness of cancer treatment.

Using the infectivity of microorganisms, producing bacteria or viruses that target CSC, and utilizing the characteristics of microorganisms to remove cancer stem cells is also a cancer treatment idea that targets CSC. Based on the concept, Creative Biolabs has developed a COVB Platform that combines the ability of bacteria to penetrate CSC niches and strength of viruses to kill tumor cells, which is also a promising cancer treatment option.

The depth of cancer research has led scientists to develop a variety of promising strategies for cancer treatment, and cancer stem cells are among the best. Creative Biolabs has also seized the opportunity to develop cancer vaccines with CSCs as the target. Based on more than 10 years of experience in vaccine research, we have made great progress and fruitful results in the development of cancer vaccines. If you are also conducting cancer vaccine research, please be assured that our successful exploration and rich experience will make your work more effective.


  1. Bao B, Ahmad A; et al. (2013). “Overview of cancer stem cells (CSCs) and mechanisms of their regulation: implications for cancer therapy.” Curr Protoc Pharmacol. Jun; Chapter 14:Unit 14.25.

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