29 October 2011

Vaccine to Treat Lung Cancer Being Developed

Researchers are developing a vaccine that can treat the most common type of lung cancer. The vaccine, called TG4010 is a modified version of the pox virus. The virus is distantly related to the smallpox virus strain.

Adding the vaccine to 148 patients undergoing chemotherapy showed that the cancer cells progression has slowed down. The results are still being studied since there is no definite conclusion that it helps in recovery. The survival rate of these patients have appeared to be marginal. The difference on the average rate of survival of patients treated with the vaccine against those who haven't is only 0.4 months (10.7 months against 10.3 months).

Vaccines for cancers are developed by using the same principles as that of vaccines against infection. It uses the body's immune system to attack cancer cell tumors. When a cell becomes cancerous and starts continuously dividing, it starts to look different. The immune system is then taught and trained to identify these cells by the proteins on the surface of these cells and attack them.

Video: Dr. John Sampson of Duke University Explains What a Cancer Vaccine Is:

That is how they developed TG4010.

Patients who volunteered for the study underwent chemotherapy and 50% of them were infected with the TG4010 virus. After 6 months, the patients who were vaccinated appeared more stable than the others who weren't. As noted, the survival rate is still marginal compared to the standard average.

Prof Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: "There's a lot of interest in harnessing the power of the immune system to treat cancer. This early-stage study shows that combining a vaccine with chemotherapy is possible, and may have some benefits for some people with lung cancer.But this study leaves a lot of unanswered questions - further research is needed to see whether the vaccine will actually improve survival for lung cancer patients."

Scientists are constantly looking for a cure for cancer. Outside of vaccines, they are also researching embryonic stem cells. Currently, stem cell research is under fire due to moral issues of procuring them. This may change as scientists are now looking into cloning a human embryo that could produce stem cells.

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