Personalized nanovaccines are safe, well tolerated, and have an effect in melanoma

Porous silicon and adenovirus-based biohybrid nanovaccines were developed in a study carried out at the University of Helsinki, providing new insights on the structure and efficacy of these systems as therapeutic cancer nanovaccines.

Immunotherapy is revolutionizing cancer treatment achieving durable and long-term responses in patients. However, only subsets of patients treated experience a positive outcome, due to immunotherapeutic resistance. Combinations of immunotherapeutics can overcome the drug resistance, thereby the administration of a cancer vaccine or an oncolytic virus followed by immune antibodies is under investigation. 

Nevertheless, there is an unmet need for powerful, yet safe vaccines. Nanoparticles, in particular porous silicon nanoparticles, present ideal characteristics to formulate nanovaccines, as a result of their size-specific targeting to the lymphoid organs, to their intrinsic adjuvant effect, and to the possibility to simultaneously load adjuvants and antigens. 

M.Sc. Pharma Flavia Fontana describes in her doctoral thesis the development of nanovaccines from the materials to the preclinical proof of concept trials. Fontana developed a biohybrid multistage nanovaccine formulation and evaluated its anticancer efficacy in murine tumor models. Fontana’s study shows that the treatment could stimulate the immune system of the mice and control melanoma tumors alone or when combined with antibodies, which are the present standard treatment. Fontana proposed biohybrid cell membrane technology as an innovative antigenic source. 

According to Fontana the personalized nanovaccines described in her thesis are safe and well tolerated. The future developments of the nanovaccines will take them closer to the clinics by evaluating the feasibility of the approach with real patients tumors.

“The systems are quite easy to personalize: the core particle will be the same for all the patients, while the cell membrane wrapping will change for each patient because it will derive from parts of their tumor biopsy”, explains Fontana, from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki. 

Original article: 

Fontana F., 2019.Biohybrid Cloaked Nanovaccines for Immunotherapy
Dissertationes Scholae Doctoralis Ad Sanitatem Investigandam Universitatis Helsinkiensis, 47/2019, pp.78 
ISBN 987-951-51-5286-2 (Paperback), ISBN 978-951-51-5287-9 (PDF,, ISSN 2342-316

Doctoral defence:

M.Sc. Pharma Flavia Fontana defends her doctoral dissertation "Biohybrid Cloaked Nanovaccines For Cancer Immunotherapy” on 14 June 2019 at 12:00 at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki ". The defence will take place at Infocenter Korona, Auditorium 1, Viikinkaari 11, Helsinki. The opponent is Professor David J. Mooney, Harvard University, and Custos is Professor Hélder A. Santos. The thesis is also available as an electronic publication via E-thesis -service.