Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine Improves Survival
Vaccine Fights 4th Deadliest Form of Cancer
Nov. 15, 2005 -- A new immune-boosting vaccine may help improve the odds of
survival for people who suffer from pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest and
most difficult-to-treat forms.
Early results show the pancreatic cancer vaccine improved survival rates
from the disease from an average of about 63% one year after diagnosis to 88%.
The percentage of pancreatic cancer patients treated with the vaccine who
survived two years after diagnosis increased from 42% to 76%.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths, and less
than 20% of people with the disease live up to five years after diagnosis.
Researchers say there is no widely accepted standard for treating pancreatic
cancer, but surgical removal of the entire affected area is the only
possibility of cure.
"Even though our results are preliminary, the survival rates are an
improvement over most published results of pancreatic cancer treatment
studies," says researcher Daniel Laheru, an assistant professor at the
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in a news release.
Pancreatic Vaccine May Improve Survival Rates
In the study, presented this week at a cancer meeting in Philadelphia,
researchers reported on the two-year results of a study of the experimental
pancreatic vaccine in 60 people with the disease.
Researchers combined use of the vaccine with conventional surgery and
postoperative chemotherapy and radiation. The vaccine uses irradiated
pancreatic cancer cells that can no longer grow and are genetically altered to
secrete a molecule that attracts the body's immune cells to the site of the
Once lured to the tumor, the immune cells pick up additional antigens from
the surface of the irradiated cells that help to identify and destroy any
remaining active cancer cells in the patient's body.
The pancreatic cancer vaccine is injected eight to 10 weeks after surgery,
and four booster shots are given after chemotherapy and radiation.
"It is important that we continue to follow these patients to know how
the treatment will work in the long term," says researcher Elizabeth
Jaffee, MD, of Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, in the news release.
"We're hopeful that these early results will hold true."
Researchers say pancreatic cancer strikes more than 30,000 Americans
annually and about the same number will die each year.