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Thursday 20th October 2016

Cancer vaccine hopes

24th May 2006

14032006_SyringePink1.jpgHopes of a vaccine for cancer received a boost following trials of a new therapy which successfully blocked tumour growth in animals in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  The experimental vaccine protected animals from cancer for up to five months, and stopped tumours growing bigger in those which already had the disease.

Dr Holmgren and a team at the Karolinska Institute cancer centre in Stockholm are now adapting the vaccine for use in humans.  They believe it could help to stop a variety of tumours recurring in patients who have already been treated with surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

The vaccine was developed following the discovery in 1990 of angiostatin, a drug which stops tumours growing new blood vessels, in effect starving them of oxygen and nutrients. Some experts predicted angiostatin would become a magic bullet for cancer, but trials found it did not last long enough in the body to be effective in a vaccine.

For the latest trial, the researchers developed a DNA-based cancer vaccine which fools the body into producing antibodies that mimic angiostatin. Because the antibodies last longer in the bloodstream, they are more effective than angiostatin. The researchers believe the vaccine was successful because it works differently from previous DNA vaccines; instead of targeting cancerous cells which are constantly mutating, the vaccine acts on healthy cells which the tumour recruits to build up its blood supply.

The researchers have teamed up with a Swedish company to manufacture antibodies that could be used in a human cancer vaccine. If the vaccine is effective in human trials, it could potentially help give protection against a range of cancers.

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