Oklahoma University Researcher Makes Vaccine Breakthrough

Article excerpt

If your body eliminates a cancerous cell or a virus, how does it do it?

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have moved closer to answering that question.

Dr. William Hildebrand has devoted most of his career to researching the body's "alarm system" - how each cell alerts the body that a virus or cancer is present. His research into the difference between a healthy cell and a sick cell continues to yield answers. The latest is a vaccine that activates a distinct part of the immune system, which has both treatment and prevention potential for cancer, viruses and HIV. Much of his research has focused on the West Nile virus and breast cancer.

"People have been developing vaccines more or less on a hit-or- miss type of approach," Hildebrand said. "We said, 'If we find a particular thing that distinguishes the West Nile virus cell or the breast cancer cell from a healthy cell, can we make the immune system go after and kill the breast cancer or West Nile virus- infected cells?'

"We took the pieces that distinguish those unhealthy cells and built them into a vaccine," he said. "We were able to show that we can indeed get the immune system to respond to that vaccine, then go and kill the infected cells."

But it's not as simple as filling a vial and taking it to market. Hildebrand and his researchers still must find out how many steps remain to making the vaccine work on everybody. But his recent breakthrough, published in the latest issue of The Journal of Immunology, is significant because he has a clearer view of the target. …