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An experimental vaccine killed brain cancer cells and prevented them from returning, a new study in mice has found. The mice lived longer and had improved anti-cancer immunity.

Using CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful gene editing tool, researchers modified living tumor cells so that they would secrete interferon-beta and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor – two potent immunomodulatory and anti-tumor agents. Then they incorporated a “kill switch” in the modified cells that would prevent secondary tumor initiation.

They found that the modified tumor cells killed glioblastoma tumor cells by inducing apoptosis (cell death) and turning off the activity of cancer growth factors. The modified cells also turned on normal anti-cancer immune cell activities and signaling, improving the animals' survival and promoting their long-term immunity.

This study in mice provides proof of concept for the use of genetically modified living tumor cells as anti-tumor agents and paves the way for their future use in humans. Learn more about therapeutic uses of gene editing in this episode featuring Dr. George Church.

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