Optimized Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) Vaccine

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed a cancer stem cell (CSC) vaccine useful for treating or preventing a variety of tumors, as well as related methods of producing cancer stem cells and antigens thereof and producing vaccine adjuvants with enhanced activity for use with the stem cell vaccines.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are tumor cells that possess characteristics associated with normal stem cells, including the ability to give rise to all cell types found in a particular tumor sample. CSCs are tumorigenic and may generate tumors by self-renewal and differentiation into multiple cell types, which are hallmark characteristics of stem cells. In addition, tumor drug resistance is believed to be closely related to many properties of CSCs, such as quiescence, specific morphology, DNA repair ability and overexpression of anti-apoptotic proteins, drug efflux transporters and detoxifying enzymes. Thus, even with treatment, CSCs cells are believed to persist in tumors and can thereby cause tumor relapse and/or metastasis following the completion of therapy. Therefore, there is a need in the art for therapies targeted specifically at CSCs for improving survival and enhancing quality of life of cancer patients.


The invention includes a multi-component vaccine that specifically targets cancer stem cells for immune elimination.  The optimized cancer stem cell (CSC) vaccine combines several novel components to create a vaccine capable of inducing effective anti-tumor immunity, against a variety of different tumor types. Preparation of the vaccine requires a tumor cell line derived from the tumor to be vaccinated against (eg, breast cancer cell line to prepare breast CSC vaccine) but does not require that the cell line be matched to the patient.

The vaccine consists of 3 components:

  1. In vitro derived CSC antigens: Tumor cell lines are placed in cell culture conditions designed to specifically induce the generation of CSC in vitro. Under normal tissue culture conditions, CSC are very rare in tumor cell lines. Optimal cell culture conditions have been developed to generate more immunogenic CSC capable of eliciting strong immunity against CSC in patients or animals with cancer.
  2. Vaccine adjuvant: The CSC vaccine is prepared by mixing CSC antigens with an adjuvant capable of eliciting strong cell-mediated immunity. The adjuvant here consists of cationic liposomes complexed to non-coding plasmid DNA (CLDC), as this adjuvant is particularly effective in eliciting T cell (both CD8 and CD4) responses to protein antigens.
  3. Vaccine enhancing agent: The CSC will also contain a vaccine enhancing agent (VEA), which consists of a CCR2 antagonist drug to block recruitment of immune suppressive monocytes) incorporated directly with the vaccine adjuvant.


Humoral responses to vaccination were quantified using flow cytometry–based endpoint titers with disaggregated J3T spheroids

Figure 1. Humoral responses to vaccination were quantified using flow cytometry–based endpoint titers with disaggregated J3T spheroids


  • Targets cancer stem cells rather than non-stem tumor cells (CSC are thought to be responsible for the self-renewing nature of tumor cells in most cancers)
  • Utilizes novel vaccine enhancing agent technology
  • Incorporates proprietary adjuvant (CLDC) with potent stimulation of T cell responses
  • Incorporates novel technologies for in vitro generation or more immunogenic CSC
Last Updated: June 2023

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