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U.S. researchers identify targets for COVID-19 vaccine using cancer immunotherapy tools

(Xinhua)    09:35, June 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Xinhua) -- Cancer researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) have harnessed tools used for the development of cancer immunotherapies and adapted them to identify regions of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to target with a vaccine, according to a newly published study.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an urgent need for the development of a safe and effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. An optimally designed vaccine maximizes a long-lasting immune response, while minimizing adverse reactions, autoimmunity, or disease exacerbation.

The researchers employed the same approach used to elicit an immune response against cancer cells to stimulate an immune response against the virus, according to the strategy described in Cell Reports Medicine.

Using this strategy, the researchers believe a resulting vaccine would provide protection across the human population and drive a long-term immune response.

"In many ways, cancer behaves like a virus, so our team decided to use the tools we developed to identify unique aspects of childhood cancers that can be targeted with immunotherapies and apply those same tools to identify the right protein sequences to target in SARS-CoV-2," said senior author John Maris, a pediatric oncologist in CHOP's Cancer Center and professor of pediatric oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

To increase the likelihood that a vaccine is both safe and effective, the research team prioritized parameters in identifying regions of the virus to target.

They targeted regions of SARS-CoV-2 that are present across multiple related coronaviruses, as well as new mutations that increase infectivity, while also ensuring that those regions were as dissimilar as possible from sequences naturally occurring in humans to maximize safety, according to the study.

The researchers proposed a list of 65 peptide sequences that, when targeted, offer the greatest probability of providing population-scale immunity. As a next step, the team is testing various combinations of a dozen or so of these sequences in mouse models to assess their safety and effectiveness.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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