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Vaccine promises cancer cure

The vaccine has surpassed expectations and could prove an effective treatment for cancers, reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Nov 14, 2006 03:49 IST
Vijay Dutt

A revolutionary cancer vaccine which uses the body’s immune system to destroy and shrink tumours has been developed by UK scientists. It is claimed that the vaccine could be available within three years.

In trials, the vaccine has surpassed expectations, leading to hopes it could prove an effective treatment for cancers that strike tens of thousands of people each year. The tumour in one patient who was given the vaccine disappeared for more than six months.

Another two have seen their tumours shrink, and in three others 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. But subsequently it could help in other forms of cancer as well.

It is said that to date 150 patients have been administered the vaccine and 95 per cent 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 three years.

Experts claimed 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 way totally different from existing treatments by harnessing the patient's own immune system to fight the disease.

Data from an early trial involving 34 people with kidney cancer was 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.

Doctors said renal cell carcinoma is a particularly aggressive form of kidney cancer which accounts for more than 80 per cent of the 6,000 cases of kidney cancer diagnosed each year in the UK and claims 3,400 lives annually.

Among the 18 patients given the treatment along with a drug called interleukin-2, one patient saw his tumour totally disappear. Two patients have seen their tumours shrink — one to the point where it can no longer be seen in his latest scan. In another three patients the disease has been stable for more than three months with one patient finding his disease has halted for more than 46 weeks.

Among the kidney cancer patients, the vaccine only appears to work for the most common type known as “clear cell renal cell carcinoma”. Those with a form known as “papillary renal cell carcinoma” did not respond to the treatment during the trials. 

Based on the successful tests, a larger study involving 700 patients around the world with this kind of kidney cancer is now being launched, according to a  report.