Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vaccine to kill Tumour Cells

This study examines patients with colorectal cancer. Dr. Richard Barth, a Dartmouth surgeon and the author of the study, operated on 26 patients whose colorectal cancer had metastasised to the liver.

In such a situation, patients are expected to die from tiny undetectable metastases that escape the surgeon's scalpel.

But here's where Dr Barth and his colleagues tried something different. They took proteins from the patient's tumor and mixed them with a certain kind of cell grown from the patient's blood.

The personalised vaccines were injected into each patient a month after surgery. Barth was able to determine that about 60% of the patients developed an immune response from the vaccine.

About five years later, he was able to compare the clinical outcomes between those who had had an immune response, and those who had not. Of the group who did not have an immune response from the vaccine, only 18% were alive and tumor-free.

Of the group who did have an immune response from the vaccine, 63% were alive and tumor-free--a remarkable result indeed. (The vaccine approach has the added benefit of being non-toxic, in contrast to chemo.)

The results were published this week in the journal Clinical Cancer Research. This is not the first time doctors have tried to fight fire with fire (or rather, tumor with tumor).

Dr Barth has been trying it on mice and humans for over a decade. And other clinical researchers had tried it as well--but without much success. Researchers were hoping that tumor-derived vaccines could actually attack and kill fully-grown tumors, rather than the microscopic metastases.

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