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Developments in British Science:
First Patient Receives Cancer Vaccine

A CANCER patient in the United Kingdom has become the first person in the world to receive a vaccine which scientists hope will revolutionise treatment of the disease.

The 42-year old female patient, who suffers from lymphoma, was injected with the vaccine at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in southern England. Experts hope it will ``kick-start'' the body's immune system into destroying cancer cells by using genetic technology.

The injection was developed following 10 years of clinical tests led by scientists from the Tenovus Institute in nearby Southampton. They have created ``designer vaccines'' by fusing together genetic material from a cancer cell with that of a harmless part of a toxin.

It is hoped the body's immune system will be alerted by the presence of the toxin and start to seek and destroy it, killing the cancer cells in the process.

''This is a DNA-carrier vaccine and that is what is different about it,'' said Professor Terry Hamblin, a scientist on the team trialling the vaccine. ``There is no doubt that this is a world-first in this particular area and if it works it would be a major advance in the treatment of cancer.''

Professor Hamblin said the vaccine would only be tested on lymphoma-type cancers but could later be developed to tackle other types of the disease, including breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer In the trial programme, between 14 and 70 patients from Southampton, Bournemouth and Manchester are to receive vaccine over a 12-week period. After a month tests will be carried out to see if the vaccine has prompted a response from the patients' immune systems.

''The end point of the trial is if we can find any immune response against the cancer. If we do, it could be inadequate, the cancer may relapse or it may not. If in sufficient patients we find an immune response we would go to random trials with patients all over the country,'' said Professor Hamblin.

The vaccine, which has been shown to work in mice, will only be given to patients who have already been treated for cancer.

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