'Universal' vaccine that could beat 90 per cent of cancers is tested on humans for first time
- Vaccine triggered greater immunity to cancer cells in trial patients
A vaccine that targets a molecule in 90 per cent of all cancers has been tested on humans for the first time.
As a therapeutic vaccine it is designed to be given to patients to help their bodies fight cancer rather than the majority - known as prophylactic vaccines - that aim to prevent disease in the first place.
Researchers believe the jab could also tackle breast, prostate, pancreatic, bowel and ovarian cancers.
If all goes well, the vaccine – called ImMucin – could be on the market by 2020.
More than 300,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed in Britain each year and the disease kills around half this number annually.
Rather than attacking cancer cells, like many drugs, the new treatment harnesses the power of the immune system to fight tumours.
The search for cancer vaccines has until now been hampered by fears that healthy tissue would be destroyed with tumours.
Not only is there more of it, but a sugar that it is ‘decorated’ with has a distinctive shape.
The vaccine ‘trains’ the immune system to recognise the rogue sugar and turn its arsenal against the cancer.
Now, Vaxil Biotheraputics have announced promising results in a human safety trial.
Ten patients suffering from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, have now received the vaccine received the vaccine at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem.
Seven of the patients have finished the treatment and Vaxil reported that all of them had greater immunity against cancer cells compared to before they were given the vaccine. Of the seven, three patients are reportedly free of detectable cancer.
None of them have reported suffering side-effects apart from minor irritation.
'In some of the patients, preliminary signs of clinical efficacy were observed.'
Years of large-scale human trials will be needed before the drug is judged safe and effective for widespread use in hospitals.
It could then be used with existing drugs to boost treatment and given to prevent tumours from coming back after surgery.
Men and women known to be at high risk of cancer because of their genes could also be vaccinated in an attempt to stop tumours from appearing.
Dr Caitlin Palframan, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘This exciting new approach could lead to treatments for breast cancer patients who have few options.
‘It also opens up the possibility of vaccinating high-risk women against breast cancer in the future.'