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Immune-bolstering vaccine extends lives of patients in cancer study
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Scientists at Georgetown University are testing a cancer vaccine that so far has produced survival rates far exceeding those achieved by patients receiving conventional therapy alone.
The experimental vaccine helps to stimulate the body’s immune system by targeting CEA, a protein found on different types of cancers.
"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," said Dr. John L. Marshall of Georgetown's Lombardi Cancer Center.
The survival rate for recurring cancers treated with chemotherapy, surgery and other conventional approaches is 5 percent, researchers said. But among 20 patients receiving the CEA vaccine, 10 patients in the study are doing well after three years.
Through these trials, doctors have learned that the immune system seems limited in its ability to fight large cancer growths, and for that reason, they said, vaccines may be best used with conventional therapies, rather than as replacements.
Scientists said vaccines work best when used with other drugs that excite the immune system, like Interleuken-2.
"The challenge now is to determine how to make those immune reactions strong enough to cause the rejection of established, invasive and deadly cancers," said Dr. Steven Rosen of the National Cancer Institute.
If the vaccine studies continue to go well, the new treatment may be available to the public in two or three years.
Cancer vaccine may help body fight off relapse
American Society of Clinical Oncology
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