Institute scientists publish research that could lead to melanoma vaccine

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

A team of scientists at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, led by George Aslanidi, PhD, Professor and leader of the Molecular Bioengineering and Cancer Vaccine research section, has published research that could lead to the development of a vaccine for melanoma.

Aslanidi’s team has developed and tested a vaccine that was successful in treating a model that mimics human melanoma. The unique vaccine design helps the body to use its own immune system to recognize and kill cancer cells. This novel vaccine platform significantly delays primary tumor growth, and clears the spread of the disease in lungs.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, causing about 9,000 deaths in the United States each year.

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“Our approach streamlines melanoma treatment into one simple vaccination,” Aslanidi said. “This eliminates many of the toxic effects of the other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation and could significantly improve a patient’s quality of life, shorten the recovery time, and improve mental health, which is often affected by conventional cancer treatments.”

Aslanidi hopes that a similar approach can eventually be used to treat any type of cancer.

“The vaccine approach is widely used for immunization against infectious diseases including chickenpox, flu, and COVID-19,” he said. “It is also used for some cancers caused by the human papilloma virus like cervical cancer as well as some head and neck cancers. However, similar approaches have not been successful for the many cancers not caused by infectious agents. We hope that our novel cancer vaccine design is the first step to be able to use a vaccine to treat these other cancers in the not so distant future.”

Aslanidi plans to conduct further studies to address important questions including vaccine dosing, vaccine boosting strategies, and applicability for other cancers.

This research was funded by community-funded grants from Paint the Town Pink and the 5th District Eagles Cancer Telethon Postdoctoral Fellowship Award.

The article “Tumor antigen-loaded AAV vaccine drives protective immunity in a melanoma animal model” was published in the journal Molecular Therapy Methods & Clinical Development. The article can be found at