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Pancreatic cancer vaccine trialled

15th April 2011

A major trial on a vaccine treating pancreatic cancer and covering 1,000 patients has begun in the UK.

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Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer from 53 hospitals have joined the TeloVac trial.

The new vaccine aims to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer and contains small sections of a protein, telomerase, which is over-produced by cancer cells.

The trial involves regular doses of vaccine together with chemotherapy and compares this with chemotherapy alone.

Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all common cancers with just 3% of patients surviving the disease for five years or more.

Professor John Neoptolemos from Royal Liverpool University Hospital is helping to co-ordinate the trial.

He said: “The problem is tumours are clever and are able to turn the immune cells into traitors which help to guard the tumour. The vaccine takes away the masking effect of the tumour.”

The trial is being funded by Cancer Research UK and is part of trials it is supporting against a range of cancers, using vaccines or antibody treatments to stimulate the immune system.

The charity’s chief clinician Professor Peter Johnson said a problem with cancer treatment is that a few malignant cells remain and cancer cells can re-grow from them.

“If you can programme the immune system to recognise those cells and get rid of them altogether or keep them in check then you can effectively stop the cancer from growing back lifelong,” he said.

Cancer Research UK stressed the vaccine is not a cure, but if it works, might prolong life.

 

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