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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