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Tobacco Hailed as Latest Plant-Based Vaccine

July 23, 2008 10:44 AM

by Sarah Amandolare

In an unlikely twist, tobacco plants are being hailed as a cancer cure, further evidence of the superiority of plant-based vaccines. Email This

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Researchers from Stanford University have put tobacco plants, notorious for their use in cigarettes, to better use. They’ve used the plants to cultivate essential elements of a cancer vaccine, reports the BBC.

Plants can be used as “factories” to produce an antibody chemical that fights follicular B-cell lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Lead researcher Richard Levy says plant-based vaccines are less expensive and can be made much more quickly than animal-based vaccines.

Within the past three years, tobacco plants have been used in studies to prevent cervical cancer, neutralize rabies, and fight breast and lung tumors.

Plant-based vaccines are nothing new to researchers, particularly plant biologist Charles Arntzen of Arizona State University who has been lauded for his research into edible vaccines using tomatoes, potatoes and bananas.

“Their simple demand for solar light, water and minerals make plants an economic system for the production of proteins,” says Dr. Rosella Franconi of Italy, who has studied plant vaccines for HPV.

Headline Links: Plant factories fight cancer

The BBC reports that researchers from Stanford University have used tobacco plants to cultivate “key components of a cancer vaccine.” The researchers used the plants “as factories for an antibody chemical” related to a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma called follicular B-cell lymphoma. The vaccine can be created quickly and tailored to each patient.

Source: The BBC

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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation published an interview with Richard Levy, the study’s lead researcher from Stanford University. Levy explains the advantages of plant vaccines, and said his study marked the first time that plant vaccines were tried on humans.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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Background: Tobacco takes a turn

In 2005, scientists at Jefferson Medical College were using tobacco plants to “target and hunt down cancer cells,” reported Science Daily. Researchers were confident that the plants would be a less costly, quicker way to make cancer antibodies, and expressed hope that the technology would “one day be used in humans,” said the article.

Source: Science Daily

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In May 2006, Checkbiotech.org reported on the use of tobacco plants to prevent cervical cancer. Two Italian doctors were able to genetically modify tobacco plants to produce a protein in the plants’ cytoplasm that when ingested, prevented cancerous tumors in mice.

Source: Checkbiotech.org

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Related Topics: Edible vaccines

In 2003, Charles Arntzen, a plant biology professor at Arizona State University, was considered to be at the forefront of the edible vaccine movement. Arntzen had used potatoes to produce vaccines for hepatitis B, E. coli and the Norwalk virus.

Source: Forbes

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In 2002, Time magazine named Arntzen’s plant-derived vaccines made from tomatoes, potatoes and bananas among the year’s best inventions. Arntzen wanted a way to bring vaccinations to third world countries for less cost and with greater ease.

Source: Time

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Opinion & Analysis: The advantages

The Newsweek blog said several different cancer vaccines are in the works, “but they face a serious problem”—the fact that each patient will require a different vaccine to suit his unique cancer cells. Plant-based vaccines, such as the one developed at Stanford, are a faster, tailor-made alternative.

Source: Newsweek

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