New Colon Cancer Vaccine Attacks Emerging Tumors
July 27, 2009
(ChattahBox)—A groundbreaking new colon cancer cancer vaccine is showing great promise in clinical trials. The treatment is the first-ever preventative cancer vaccine that attacks emerging pre-cancerous tumors, wiping them out before they become deadly.
The promising clinical trials are currently underway at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. University researchers have been recruiting patients for the clinical trials since 2008 and expect to continue through 2011, to work out any issues with the new vaccine.
The vaccine works by using the body’s own antibodies to fight against the abnormal version of a mucous protein called MUC1, which is found in many types of cancer, including colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and including most breast tumors. Other cancer vaccines have been developed to fight a cancer-causing virus or to attack existing tumors, but this is the first vaccine that targets cancerous tissue before it develops into a full-fledged tumor.
Lead researcher Robert E. Schoen, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and professor of epidemiology at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, explained that the vaccine works by “…using your immune system as a surveillance mechanism to prevent the development of malignancy.”
This type of vaccine would be particularly useful to treat patients at high-risk for developing colon cancer, as many precancerous polyps, called advanced adenomas, give off abnormal levels of the protein MUC1. About half of all advanced adenomas and the majority of colorectal cancers contain high-levels of MUC1. The vaccine could reduce the need for frequent colonoscopies in many patients.
Although not all advanced adenomas produce abnormal levels MUC1, some patients may still require colonoscopies.
So far, the vaccine has been well tolerated by the patients in the trial, with just a few instances of some redness and soreness at the injection site and the occasional short-term fever, but no major side effects reported.
Schoen believes the concept of the new vaccine offers great potential for the development of additional cancer vaccines that target different types of proteins produced by cancerous tumors.