Virus Vaccine May Prevent Skin Cancer

Scientists have created a vaccine that may protect against skin cancer, according to a new study.

Researchers said the latest findings suggest that vaccination might prevent virus-associated benign and malignant skin tumors.

In the latest study, researchers used mice in which skin papillomaviruses are present and transmitted to young offspring. Researchers explain that most people are infected with skin papillomaviruses as children and carry the virus in skin cells for the rest of our lives.  However, the mice used in the study are more sensitive to the virus that humans.

Researchers were able to make a vaccine against the rodent skin papillomavirus, which was modeled after the HPV vaccine against human papillomaviruses that protects against cervical cancer and genital warts. 

The findings revealed that the vaccine completely prevented the appearance of benign and malignant skin tumors.

While the vaccine doesn’t completely eliminate the virus, it reduces the virus numbers in skin cells. Researchers explain that virus numbers in skin cells were significantly lower in the vaccinated animals. The findings suggest that the vaccine is efficient in training and boosting the immune system to fight the virus.

Researchers said the findings are important for transplant recipients who need to take immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ. One of the side effects of immunosuppressive drugs is abnormal skin growths that can lead to skin cancer. The drugs are a reason why transplant patients have a 250 times greater chance of developing skin tumors. The study found that the vaccine even works in mice treated with immunosuppressive drugs.

Researchers said that the latest suggest that papillomavirus vaccination around the time of transplantation could prevent the skin lesions seen in transplant patients.

“These findings provide the basis for the clinical development of potent vaccination strategies against cutaneous [skin] HPV infections and HPV-induced tumors, especially in patients awaiting organ transplantation,” researchers wrote.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS Pathogens.

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