A cancer vaccine created by Israeli researchers is beginning phase III clinical trials at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. If all continues to go well a therapeutic cancer vaccine could be available within six years that could not only treat cancer but prevent it from reoccurring.
The vaccine is currently being tested on a type of blood cancer called multiple myeloma but if they are successful against this cancer it is believed that the vaccine will be effective against 90% of all cancers including breast and prostate cancer.
Unlike traditional vaccines that train the immune system to fight off a foreign attack by a virus or bacteria, this vaccine will work more like a drug helping people that already have cancer. Cancer has been difficult to treat thus far because unlike a virus it is the body’s own cells that go wrong and attack. Many of the treatments currently available end up attacking healthy cells as well as cancerous cells; depressing the immune system further and making recovery more difficult. The new vaccine is able to train the T-cells in our immune system to identify and attack a specific marker, called MUC1, which is found only in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. This prevents the debilitating side effects that occur with traditional treatment like chemotherapy.
“It’s a really big thing, if you give chemo, apart from the really nasty side effects, what often happens is that the cancer becomes immune (to it). “ says Levy, a biotechnology entrepreneur. “The tumor likes to mutate and develops an ability to hide from the treatment. Our vaccines are also designed to overcome that problem.”
While the vaccine may not be sufficient to treat advanced stage cases, once the cancer is brought under control, via traditional means like chemo or surgery, regular shots of the vaccine will enable a person’s immune system to keep the cancer at bay without any ongoing side effects.
While it may be a few more years until this vaccine becomes available to the public it could just be the greatest breakthrough in cancer research in decades.