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Colon cancer vaccine appears to prevent recurrence

Cancer survivor
 Cancer survivor Curt Adams, with his wife, says he would not be here without the OncoVAX vaccine  

January 28, 1999
Web posted at: 8:28 p.m. EST (0128 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Results from a new study show that an experimental vaccine, custom-made from a patient's own tumor cells, may significantly reduce the rate of recurrence for colon cancer patients.

The findings are reported in the latest issue of The Lancet, a British medical journal.

The vaccine, called OncoVAX, is given to patients who have had surgery to remove colon cancer. Researchers who traced a group of those patients for five years found that the rate of recurrence for patients with stage two colon cancer decreased 61 percent. They also showed a 50 percent improvement in their survival rate.

Stage two is a cancer that has spread through the colon wall but not to other areas of the body.

"I think this is a major advance in treating early stage colon cancer. There is no question about it," said Dr. Gabriel Feldman of the American Cancer Society, who cautioned that the results would need to be confirmed in another study.

Researchers say they've seen no short- or long-term side effects from the vaccine.

About a third of all colon cancer cases are diagnosed when the disease is quite advanced, making chances of a cure unlikely. However, experts say if people get medical attention as soon as symptoms appear, chances of a cure are excellent.

Signs of the disease include weakness, changes in bowel habits and abdominal pain.

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