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Clinical trials to begin in two years

A team of international researchers has used a human vaccine to cure prostate tumors in mice without side effects. 

Richard Vile, Ph.D., study leader and Mayo Clinic immunologist, along with Alan Melcher, Ph.D., and Peter Selby, Ph.D., both from the Cancer Research UK Clinical Centre at St. James' University Hospital, have developed a cure for prostate cancer in mice that also shows promise for other cancers and melanoma as well. 

Scientists have attempted to accomplish this in the past, but were hindered by the inability to isolate a diverse collection of antigens in tumor cells. This then causes tumors to mutate and survive the body's immune system. 

But Vile and his team were able to overcome this by first piecing together parts of genetic code from human prostate tissue into a complementary DNA (cDNA) library. The cDNA were then placed into a mob of vesicular stomatitis viruses (VSV), which were cultured. They were then given to the mice as a vaccine through several intravenous injections. 

Tumors have a unique "fingerprint" called an antigen, which triggers an immune system response through a molecular protein tag. By releasing the human vaccine prostate cancer antigens into the mutated VSV vector, the mice's T-cells were able to launch an attack. The animals' immune systems then became familiar with the antigens expressed in the virus after being exposed to the mutated virus, and created a potent immune response. This attacked the prostate tumors. 

Vile's immunotherapy research differed from others because it made use of viruses as vectors for cDNA libraries. This eliminates the challenge of isolating antigens in tumor cells because it offers an in-depth profile of the cancer. 

"Nobody really knows how many antigens the immune system can really see on tumor cells," said Vile. "By expressing all of these proteins in highly immunogenic viruses, we increased their visibility to the immune system. The immune system now thinks it is being invaded by the viruses, which are expressing cancer-related antigens that should be eliminated."

Clinical trials are expected to begin in two years.

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By jimhsu on 6/21/2011 2:00:05 AM , Rating: 5
I think it's called "side effects". The thing to watch out for in future trials will be autoimmunogenicity -- in other words, if the tumor antigens look "too much" like normal cells ... well, you'll have a lot of problems on your hands. All sorts of horrible things with long names like rheumatoid disease, Wegener's granulomatosis, glomerulonephritis, etc etc...

Killing tumors is a balance between a) the tumor itself, b) immunoreactivity, and c) drug toxicity. When any of those things get out of whack, bad things happen, like your patient dying. Hence the need for more studies before this goes to clinical trials.

By nstott on 6/21/2011 1:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
...and given the choice between rheumatoid arthritis and tumors, it's best to stick with the devil you know...

While I'm admittedly making light of your reasonable point, a more balanced approach would be to hold off on patients that have other viable treatment options while giving the new, untested option to patients that are likely to die anyway and have no other options available after they sign release forms acknowledging the risks.

By jimhsu on 6/21/2011 2:35:06 PM , Rating: 2
That is true, and that is why we have fast track drug programs (e.g. ). I don't know if similar things exist for clinical procedures such as this that are not drugs per se, but have the same set of benefits and risks.

All in all, informed consent is going to be a necessity here, as with any other drug program.

By nstott on 6/22/2011 10:22:24 AM , Rating: 2
I've heard of the fast track program, but it did little to help my dad who died of multiple myeloma after the doctors refused to allow him to take drugs still in the experimental phase. It was well-understood that he would die without a new drug since the approved drugs lose effectiveness over time.

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