by Catholic Online –
A vaccine that can shrink tumors is being hailed as a breakthrough against the deadliest cancers. The vaccine targets specific cancer cells, killing them, which is something scientists have tried to do for decades.
Tested on breast, bowel, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, the recent findings have enormous implications for thousands of patients struck down by these afflictions, which have among the lowest survival rates.
Scientists will begin the first human trials by 2013, and if successful, the vaccine could be available in as soon as five years.
According to accepted medical knowledge, when cells become cancerous, sugars on their surface undergo distinct changes that set them apart from healthy cells. The cancer vaccine works by conforming the body’s immune system to recognize these sugary proteins called MUC1 in cancer cells. The vaccine leaves healthy cells alone. MUC1 is found on more than 70 per cent of deadly cancers.
On tests in laboratory mice, the vaccine shrank tumors by as much as 80 per cent
“This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells,” study co-author Sandra Gendler, Grohne Professor of Therapeutics for Cancer Research at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona says.
Scientists say that many types of cancer, including breast, pancreatic and ovarian, produce MUC1 in 90 percent of cases.
It is also present in 90 percent of breast cancer patients who are not responsive to hormone treatments such as tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitor drugs or ‘wonderdrug’ Herceptin.
“This vaccine activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent,” study author Professor Geert-Jan Boons, from the University of Georgia Cancer Center says.
Professor Boons said he is confident the vaccine will play an important role in cancer treatment. He added: “When combined with early diagnosis, the hope is that one day cancer will become a manageable disease.”
“This exciting new approach could lead to treatments for breast cancer patients who have few options,” Dr, Caitlin Palframan from Breakthrough Breast Cancer says.
“It also opens up the possibility of vaccinating high risk women against breast cancer in the future. However, we need to see this approach trialed in cancer patients before we know its full potential.
“In the U.S. alone, there are 35,000 patients diagnosed every year whose tumors are triple-negative,” Boons said.
“So we might have a therapy for a large group of patients for which there is currently no drug therapy aside from chemotherapy.”
HT: Catholic Online