Scientists are working on a new vaccine that could prevent and simultaneously kill brain cancer.

The team is harnessing a novel means to turn cancer cells into anti-cancer agents that could eliminate tumors and train the immune system to prevent cancer recurrence.

The effort is carried out in the lab of Khalid Shah, MS, Ph.D. at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, with the researchers keen on developing a cancer vaccine that yields long-term immunity against the condition.

In their study published in the Science Translational Medicine journal Wednesday, the researchers noted why they are using living tumor cells instead of inactivated tumor cells. According to them, the latter has a limited ability to kill tumor cells before inducing an immune response. On the other hand, living tumor cells can track and target tumors.

For the study, they engineered therapeutic tumor cells and used them to eliminate glioblastoma tumors in mice. Glioblastoma is a fast-growing type of tumor in the central nervous system, forming from the supportive tissue of the brain and spinal cord, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The therapeutic tumor cells did not only eliminate the tumors, but they also translated into a survival benefit and long-term immunity in the humanized mice experiments. The team called what they developed a “promising cell-based immunotherapy for solid tumors.”

“Our team has pursued a simple idea: to take cancer cells and transform them into cancer killers and vaccines,” Shah, the corresponding author in the study, said in a news release.

The vice chair of research in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Brigham continued, “Using gene engineering, we are repurposing cancer cells to develop a therapeutic that kills tumor cells and stimulates the immune system to both destroy primary tumors and prevent cancer.”

Shah noted that their goal was to develop a “cancer-killing vaccine” that would have a big impact on the medical community. However, further research is still needed to fully understand its applications.

“Throughout all of the work that we do in the Center, even when it is highly technical, we never lose sight of the patient. Our goal is to take an innovative but translatable approach so that we can develop a therapeutic, cancer-killing vaccine that ultimately will have a lasting impact in medicine,” he said.