A vaccine jab that destroys tumours


Written on Saturday, November 11, 2006 by Gemini

Using Body’s Own Immune System To Shrink Deadly Growth; Anti-Tumour Response Seen In 95% Patients

Arevolutionary cancer vaccine developed by UK scientists can destroy and shrink deadly tumours by using the body’s own immune system, it has emerged. In trials the jab has surpassed expectations, sparking hopes it could prove an effective treatment for cancers that strike thousands of Britons each year. One patient given the vaccine has seen his tumour disappear completely for more than six months. Another two have seen their tumours shrink, and in three people the cancer has been halted in its tracks.

The researchers said results were “exciting” and “very encouraging”. Oxford BioMedica, the British company behind the jab, is initially hoping it will provide a new treatment for kidney and bowel cancer. Between them these cause 40,000 new cases and 20,000 deaths each year in the UK. To date 150 patients have had the vaccine and 95% of those that can be evaluated have had an ‘anti-tumour response’. If further trials prove successful, the vaccine could be licensed for use against kidney cancer within just three years.

Experts last night said the data suggests the ‘gene therapy’ vaccine could prove an effective treatment for a whole range of cancers. The new jab called TroVax works in a totally different way to existing treatments by harnessing the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease. The patient is given a series of injections in the arm containing a harmless virus and a gene for a protein called 5T4.

This protein is found on the surface of tumours but not on healthy cells. By injecting the gene into the body, it triggers an immune system reaction which kills the cancer cells but leaves healthy tissue unharmed. Data from an early trial involving 34 people with kidney cancer were revealed at a major American cancer conference earlier this year. Last week updated data was announced at a medical conference in Prague from the Phase II trial, in which people with renal cell carcinoma had the vaccine on its own or in combination with other standard treatments.

Among the 18 given the treatment along with a drug called interleukin-2, one patient saw his tumour totally disappear. Two have seen it reduce in size — one to the point where it can no longer be seen in his scan.

Sisters get stomach removed to avoid cancer in family

Two sisters have had their stomachs removed to protect themselves from an inherited disease which killed four close family members. Lisa and Ruth Bendle, who are just 23 and 20, took the decision because they carry a mutated gene that caused fatal stomach cancer in their father, aunt, cousin and grandmother.

They are the first people in Britain to have a vital organ removed to counter the risk of cancer. Lisa and Ruth started undergoing tests for the disease after their father David died two years ago. The first test last December was clear but the second in July showed that they both had cancerous cells. They decided to have their stomachs removed and had the surgery, on the same day, less than two months later. Just before the operation, tests proved correct the suspicion that the girls carried the same mutated gene as their father.

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