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Researchers Report Progress Treating Cancer With Vaccine Therapy, Drug Combination

Aired May 23, 2000 - 1:16 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to treating cancer, radiation and chemotherapy have long been the norm with varying degrees of success. Now researchers are reporting progress with vaccine therapy in combination with other cancer-fighting drugs.

More now on its promises and its limitations from CNN's Eileen O'Connor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hava Bone (ph) had colon cancer that spread to her lungs and liver. Surgery and chemotherapy initially helped, but she and her doctors decided to try an experimental vaccine that targets CEA, a protein found on different types of cancer. By giving the vaccine along with another drug that excites the immune system, doctors can teach Bone's own immune system to fight her cancer. The result: A year later, she is cancer free.

DR. JOHN L. MARSHALL, LOMBARDI CANCER CTR., GEORGETOWN UNIV.: We've learned that, in virtually everybody we give the vaccine to, we can create T cells -- those are the immune fighting cells -- which can seek out and recognize colon cancer or any type of cancer with CEA on it -- and actually kill those cells.

O'CONNOR: The Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown University is running two vaccine trials. With conventional treatment, the survival rate for recurring cancers is 5 percent. But 10 out of 20, or half the patients receiving the CEA vaccine for the past three years, are doing well.

Still, through these and other trials, doctors can see the immune system is limited in its ability to fight large cancer growths. For that reason, doctors warn vaccines may never replace conventional treatments like surgery and chemotherapy.

Currently, vaccines work best when used in conjunction with other drugs, like Interleuken II, which stimulates the immune system.

DR. STEVEN ROSENBERG, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE: The challenge we have now is to determine how to make those immune reactions strong enough to cause the rejection of established, invasive and deadly cancers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know what my last CEAs were?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Normal.

O'CONNOR: With successes like Hava Bone, doctors say it could be just two to three years before some cancer vaccines are made generally available.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN: In the second hour of CNN TODAY, we'll have details on new approaches to diagnosing cancer that could prevent needless surgeries.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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