Feb. 2, 2004 -- There's more good news about a potential cancer vaccine that could specifically target each person's unique tumor.
The study is very preliminary -- involving mice -- but it is another step in a worldwide research effort aimed at developing a safe and effective cancer vaccine treatment.
Both cancerous and normal cells have many of the same identifying markers. So one of the challenges in creating a cancer vaccine has been figuring out how to launch an immune system attack against cancer cells and leaving normal ones unharmed, explain the researchers.
Unlike flu and other vaccines, cancer vaccines are not intended to be given to healthy people to prevent cancer. They are being developed to help sick patients bolster their immune system to better fight the cancer. The vaccines won't be available for at least a decade, researchers say.
In developing this cancer vaccine, the researchers looked at a gene that creates an enzyme that is found in 80% of human tumors. It is seen in limited amounts in normal cells.
They were able to create a vaccine targeting a specific part of this gene. In doing this, they were able to generate an immune response against the tumor -- without stimulating the immune system to attack normal cells.
This finding strongly suggests that targeting the specific part of this gene in cancer cells could be a new strategy toward cancer vaccine development, according to researcher David-Alexandre Gross, with the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale Unite in Cedex, France.
His study appears in the Feb. 2 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.