New Immunotherapies for Cancer

Case ID:


Wayne State University researchers have developed a novel strategy to fight cancer and eradicate tumors through stimulation of the immune system. Curing cancer via the activation of patients’ immune system is considered an ideal strategy due to the potentially high potency and specificity of the human immune system to eradicate tumors. In this regard, tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs), which are uniquely or excessively expressed carbohydrates on cancer cells, are useful molecular targets. However, free carbohydrates are usually poorly immunogenic and only induce T cell-independent immune responses. Strong T cell-dependent immune response is necessary for the effective treatment of cancer. To form functional cancer vaccines that induce strong T cell-dependent immune responses, TACAs must be covalently linked to an immunologically active carrier module. Structure-activity relationship studies of lipid A have disclosed that monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA), is a promising immunostimulant or vaccine adjuvant.


This technology uses MPLA as a carrier and adjuvant for the development of TACA-based cancer vaccines. MLPAs of different origins are developed and coupled with specific TACAs to form MPLA/TACA conjugates. Immunological studies have revealed that these conjugates have induced extremely strong immune responses in mice without the use of an external adjuvant. This suggests that MPLA can serve both as a carrier module and vaccine adjuvant to induce T-cell dependent immune responses. Targeted on specific carbohydrates that are found on cancer cells, these MPLA/TACA conjugates activate the immune system to eradicate cancerous tissue. In Vivo studies have demonstrated that treating melanoma-inoculated mice with the synthetic vaccine can effectively inhibit tumor growth and tumor metastasis with no obvious side-effects or toxicity. This technology holds advantages over other forms of cancer treatment because it has the potential to be developed into a vaccine that utilizes the body’s natural disease fighting mechanisms as a more direct and less toxic treatment of cancer.

Commercial Applications

- Development of highly effective, less toxic cancer treatments

- Vaccines to both prevent and treat numerous forms of cancer

Patent Status

Issued patents 8,809,285 and 9,259,476

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Nicole Grynaviski
Commercialization Principal
Wayne State University
Zhongwu Guo
Qianli Wang
Shouchu Tang
Cancer Therapies
Drug Delivery