The IFL SCIENCE reports the newly developed cancerous tumor-destroying vaccine is currently being trialed on humans in the U.K. With the first two patients who have already been injected with the medication at Guy’Hospital in London, there are a total of 30 patients expected to participate in the study for the next two years.
How The Tumor-Vaccine Works
The cancerous vaccine they say, works in a similar way other vaccines do, to protect us from certain infections. The treatment attempts to stimulate the immune system so that it destroys tumours wherever they have spread in the body. Normally, the various components of the immune system – which include white blood cells such as T cells – protect against cancer by killing tumor cells, although some tumors are able to evade these natural defences.
When this occurs and cancer develops to an advanced stage, the immune system is often suppressed. Numerous factors are thought to be responsible for this effect, ranging from tumor cells’ ability to damage immune cells, to a decrease in white blood cell production when cancer spreads to the bone marrow.
The Tumor-Vaccine Compositions
The scientist said the vaccines contains small amount of antigens (proteins found on the surface of the pathogen), substances capable of evoking an immune response, which stimulate the body to produce antibodies that specialize in the labeling and destruction of that particular entity.
Accordingly, the new vaccine currently being tested is comprised of small fragments of an enzyme found in cancer cells. Called human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), this regulates the length of the protective caps on chromosomes called telomeres, enabling the cells to divide continuously. Scientists are hopeful that this will stimulate patients’ immune systems to produce antibodies that can target this enzyme, thereby facilitating the destruction of cancer cells.
We know that the immune system in patients with advanced cancer is suppressed, so it’s unable to recognise and kill cancer cells
said Professor Hardev Pandah, principal investigator on the trial from the University of Surrey in Guildford. He also added,
In this trial we are investigating a form of immunotherapy designed to activate the body’s immune system by administration of a vaccine based on fragments to a key cancer protein.
According to James Spicer, the chief investigator on the trial at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre in London, the low doses of a chemotherapy drug will be given to the patients alongside the vaccine in order to stimulate an effective immune response against tumour cells.
The unique feature of this study is the use of additional agents to boost the vaccination response. It is hoped this will abolish the inhibitory effect of regulatory immune cells present in the patients’ circulation, which are believed to have limited the effectiveness of previous cancer vaccine approaches.
Dr Spicer said.
There are very few solid tumours that shouldn’t be susceptible to this sort of treatment. This is a phase one trial, but we are pretty confident that it will be safe – but whether or not it will be effective, we will have to wait and see
Patient On Trial
One of the first two patients, Kelly Potter 35, who is receiving the treatment following her advanced cervical cancer diagnoses last year, 2015, said she was delighted to be eligible for the trail.
To be part of this trial has changed my life for the better. It’s been a very positive experience and really interesting. I feel honoured to be involved. You get the best treatment anyway at Guy’s but it’s fantastic to be part of something that could be ground breaking
Ms Potter was injected with the vaccine on 9 February and has another seven visits to the hospital to complete the treatment. Doctors have warned her that she may experience flu-like symptoms, although none has appeared so far, she said.
My hope for the future is to beat the cancer for as long as I can, and if I can’t, I have come to terms with that. I would like to go on and inspire others with cancer.
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