A cancer vaccine that tackles tumors and out-of-control cells -- a first of its kind -- will soon enter clinical trials in what researchers hope will transform currently fatal diseases into chronic illnesses.
Unlike preventative flu or polio vaccines given before symptoms show up, doctors administer the therapeutic lung cancer vaccine, known as Cimavaz-EFG, after finding a tumor. While the vaccine doesn't target the disease directly, the therapy forces the body's immune system to attack.
We're not going to cure [cancer], said Ricardo Komotar, director of surgical neuro-oncology at University of Miami Hospital. Our goal is to convert it into a chronic condition like high blood pressure or diabetes that you can live the rest of your life with and live a very normal life.
Scientists at the Center for Molecular Immunology in Havana, Cuba developed the vaccine over the course of 15 years. More than 1,000 Cuban patients reported good results following initial tests. The vaccine allowed advanced cancer to be controlled by generating antibodies against the proteins that cause uncontrollable cellular proliferation without harming normal tissues in the way that radiation and chemotherapy do, researchers said.
Patients who suffer from the most serious types of tumors such as glioblastomas, are likely to still use chemotherapy to target cells that cannot be seen, scientists said. The therapeutic vaccine will give these patients more time, Sheryl Shetsky, president of the Florida Brain Tumor Association, told Centre Daily about the impact of the new vaccine.
The vaccine has been approved by British regulators and will start being tested in Britain in a matter of days, said Erik D'Hondt, scientific director for the Malaysian drug company Bioven, who is in charge of European distribution of the drug.
The treatment contains two parts. Surgeons start by removing the malignant tumor and isolating essential proteins from it. In six to eight weeks, the mixture of cancer-associated proteins is injected back into the patient's arm, marshaling the immune system to recognize the proteins as invasive, causing the body to produce T-cells to fight them.
The vaccine is safe has no severe side effects and increases the patient's life expectancy with a good quality of living, said project director Gisela Gonzalez in an interview with the Latin American Herald Tribune.
The study passed the first phase of the testing. The next clinical testing phase could pave the way to approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the next three to four years, according to scientists at the Center for Molecular Immunology.