Basal cell carcinoma is generally a slow-growing and painless form of skin cancer that starts in the top layer of the skin and develops on areas that are regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet radiation.
Too much exposure to the sun can lead to melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Reuters

A new method for treating melanoma skin cancer has shown promise in two clinical trials. Unlike uniform removal or drug treatment of cancerous cells the treatment is personalized for each patient based on their specific cancer mutations. The injection is the used to trigger an immune response against the cancerous mutations strong enough to eradicate them.

The two vaccine trials were published in the journal Nature last month. One of the trials was conducted in the United States while the other was conducted in Germany and combined the two had a total of 19 patients who participated in the trials, says Nature.

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The vaccines are custom made for each patient but other than that they’re similar to other vaccines usually aimed at preventing infectious disease. The part of the infectious disease that’s unique, the cancer, is mixed with immune system stimulants and injected into the patient. This then triggers an attack of the invader, or the unique cancer. The difference between the cancer fighting vaccine and a regular vaccine is that instead of preventing infectious disease, it attacks it once the person is already infected.

The basis of the vaccines were sequenced from the genes that encoded proteins in each specific patient’s tumor. The trial conducted in the United States treated six different patients who all had melanoma. They all received surgery to remove their tumors and were at risk of the cancer returning, according to Nature. Two years after the removal, of the six patients who received the vaccines, four had no tumors return. The two patients who did have tumors return were treated with immunotherapy and have been in remission since.

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In the Germany-based trial 13 melanoma patients were treated with the vaccine approach. Eight of them did not have any tumors at the time of vaccination and did not develop any in the following year. The other five participants had various experiences. They all had tumors by the time they were vaccinated and two of them saw their tumors shrink, although one had theirs come back. Another patient was treated with a similar immunotherapy drug as the individual in the United States trial.

The main difference in the two vaccines is that the vaccine developed in the U.S. used up to 20 protein fragments while the German trial used up to 10 proteins in the vaccines. While the trials were small and only show some success with a specific type of cancer the method is still a thriving one for research that might bring a new treatment to cancer patients, says Nature.