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  health > cancer > story pageAIDSAlternative MedicineCancerDiet & FitnessHeartMenSeniorsWomen

Cancer vaccine may help body fight off relapse

Cancer

September 28, 1999
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EDT (1613 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Eileen O'Connor

(CNN) -- An experimental cancer therapy using a vaccine which combines enemy cancer cells with a patient's own natural defenses is showing promise, according to researchers. And the National Cancer Institute will move forward to enroll 390 people with lymphoma for a larger test of the vaccine.

Currently, the vaccine is being developed only for newly diagnosed patients with a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. This is the most common form of lymphoma, affecting about 21,000 people every year.

  MESSAGE BOARD
Cancer Update
 

Before chemotherapy, tumor cells are taken from each patient and then fused to antibody-producing mouse cells. These cells are able to recreate large quantities of the tumor proteins. By using new lab technologies, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) can alter the tumor proteins enough so the patient's own immune system learns how to identify and fight the cancerous cells.

"This is a custom made vaccine from the patient's own tumor cells which is designed to activate the patient's own defenses to fight the tumor where it had not done that before," said NCI's Dr. Larry Kwak.

The 20 patients in this early study received the vaccine and boosters after chemotherapy and while in remission. Scientists are hoping other cancer vaccines that are in development can benefit from what was learned this study.

"It's a therapy that represents no side effects to the patient and it's harnessing entirely the patient's own immune system to fight the cancer," Kwak said.

The NCI hopes to enroll 390 patients for the next phase of these trials, but they caution it will be six to eight years before they can prove this vaccine can remain effective.



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RELATED SITES:
National Cancer Institute
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