The researchers said they believe the local application of very small amounts of vaccine could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with common treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” Professor of oncology Ronald Levy told Stanford. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”

One of the agents is already approved for use in humans while the other has been tested for human use in several unrelated clinical trials, according to Stanford School of Medicine. A clinical trial was launched in January to test the effect of the treatment in patients with lymphoma.

Levy is the senior author of the study, which was published January 31 in Science Translational Medicine and instructor of medicine Idit Sagiv-Barfi, PhD, is the lead author.

“All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,” Levy told Stanford.