Is the cure for cancer already in your body?
New research shows that our own immune system might be the best thing we can use to help fight cancer.
BBC news reports on the new vaccine.
Experts are saying that human bodies have such a strong immune system that the best answer to curing cancer is already within us.
The new information was recently published in the journal Science. Safety tests were conducted on three people. The results showed that one’s own immune system could be trained to fight cancer.
The BBC reported on the research saying,
“The American team say the early results mark a "significant step" towards personalized cancer vaccines. The charity Cancer Research UK called the tests an exciting but very early-stage trial. UV light can transform healthy skin cells into deadly melanomas by damaging the DNA.”
How do cancerous tumors work?
Scientists say that they are a genetic mess that contain thousands of mutations. The mutations then change the proteins that stick out and have flags that can be identified. The team worked to identify these unique flags in training the body to fight them and thereby fight the cancer.
Experts gave these types of personalized vaccines to three patients with advanced tumors in 2013. How are they doing today? One of the patients is in remission and has stayed cancer-free. Another patient still has stable tumors. The last patient's tumor actually shrank in the months after the vaccine before going back to its original size and remaining stable.
Dr. Gerald Linette, helped lead the study. He commented on his findings saying,
“Our team is very encouraged by the quality of the immune response directed against the melanoma neoantigens in all three patients. Our results are preliminary, but we think the vaccines have therapeutic potential.”
Dr. Beatriz Carreno, who also led the study, added, “These findings represent a significant step toward more personalized immunotherapies.”
Are there any obstacles to the personalized vaccine approach?
Researchers say yes there are a few hurdles.
Scientists need proper clinical trials first to prove that the immune boost actually makes a difference to controlling the tumor, and there are also questions about cost and the time it takes (currently three months) to develop each person's vaccine. But, if the approach proves successful it could be utilized in other highly mutated cancers such as those located in the lung.
Can these personalized vaccines work for many types of cancers?
Researchers say they can probably also have a role in breast and ovarian cancers in women with BRCA mutations (such as the Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie), which also tend to be very mutated.
Dr. Worsley, of Cancer Research UK, commented on the study. He said,
“This exciting but very early-stage trial shows that it may be possible to create vaccines that are tailored to the specific genetic mistakes in a patient's cancer. At the moment it's not clear how effective this immunotherapy would be at killing cancer cells in the body and improving survival, but this promising study sets the stage for creating vaccines that are designed to target each patient's individual tumor in the future.”
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