British scientists have created a cancer vaccine that fights the most deadly type of skin cancer – and learned how to predict who it will work for.
Two-thirds of the patients immunized with the vaccine, which targets melanoma cells, are ‘alive and well’ five years later. In the rest, their cancer got worse.
Experts believe the ability to tell who the vaccine will work for will revolutionize the battle against cancer. It will enable doctors to target expensive new remedies on ‘responder’ patients, saving the NHS vital money.
The jab, called SCIB1, was created by Nottingham drugs firm Scancell. It contains DNA which teaches the patient’s immune cells how to recognize two protein ‘tags’ commonly found on the outside of melanoma cells, called antigens.
Scientists at cancer detection firm Oncimmune, also based in Nottingham, then found they could predict who would respond positively to the treatment.
They discovered that patients who responded well had certain sets of pre-existing cancer-related antibodies.
Scientists were then able to predict the ‘long-term survivors’ with over 80 percent accuracy, said Oncimmune director Dr. Annalisa Jenkins. All the 16 patients in the test had advanced melanoma.
The two firms reported: ‘Eleven patients responded well to therapy and are alive and well with a median survival of 60 months. Five patients showed disease recurrence.’
Melanoma kills about 2,500 people a year in Britain, a quarter of them aged under 60.
Dr. Richard Goodfellow, chief executive of Scancell, said if a larger-scale study confirmed their results, then the targeted approach could be used to select patients ‘most likely to positively respond to our novel treatment – and thereby increase the chances of a successful outcome’.
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