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Scientists advance cancer ‘cure’ as new vaccine shows promise

Scientists

Scientists have made two major breakthroughs in the quest for cancer cure.

A new vaccine has shown early promise for patients. According to data from a phase I clinical trial, treatment with a HER2-targeted therapeutic cancer vaccine provided clinical benefit to several patients with metastatic HER2-positive cancers who had not previously been treated with a HER2-targeted therapeutic.

The data was presented at the Fourth Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the Association for Cancer lmmunotherapy (CIMT), the European Academy of Tumor Immunology (EATI), and the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference: Translating Science into Survival, held September 30-October 3, in New York, United States (U.S.).

Among eleven evaluable patients who had received more than the lowest dose of the vaccine, six (54 percent) had clinical benefit.

One patient with ovarian cancer had a complete response that lasted 89 weeks, one patient with gastroesophageal cancer had a partial response that lasted 16 weeks, and four patients (two with colon cancer, one with prostate cancer, and one with ovarian cancer) had stable disease.

The Conference focuses on “Translating Science into Survival,” and feature talks from more than 50 leaders in the field covering all areas of inquiry in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, including: regulating T cells and their response to cancer, tumour microenvironment, genetically engineered T cells, maintenance of immune balance, novel vaccine platforms and combinations, mutational analysis and predicting response to immunotherapy, convergence of technology and cancer immunotherapy, microbiome, and metabolism.

Chief of the Vaccine Branch at the Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., Dr. Jay A. Berzofsky, said: “Immunotherapy marshals the exquisite specificity of the immune system to destroy cancer, and some types may have potentially fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

“We are using a vaccine approach to generate an immune response to HER2, which is found at high levels on and drives the growth of several types of cancer, including breast, ovarian, lung, colorectal, and gastroesophageal cancers.

Our results suggest that we have a very promising vaccine for HER2-overexpressing cancers. We hope that one day the vaccine will provide a new treatment option for patients with these cancers.”

Also, scientists from the University of the Basque Country, Spain, has found Amazonian plant has ‘tremendous’ potential in treating liver cancer.

The botanical extract of the indigenous Vismia baccifera leaf kills liver tumours in the lab, a Spanish study found. V. baccifera triggers cancerous cells into ‘suicide’ without harming healthy tissue, which causes much of the grueling side effects of chemotherapy.

Study author Dr. Jenifer Trepiana said: “Right now, there is huge interest in identifying compounds derived from plants that could be used as chemotherapeutic agents with the capacity to prevent tumours from growing, or to treat metastasis, for example.”

Metastasis occurs when cancer spreads due to the development of tumours away from the disease’s original site in the body.

The plant was picked from the Amazonian forest of Florencia, Columbia.

“Indigenous populations use it for its anti-inflammatory properties or for urinary tract disorders or skin diseases, but we chose it because in previous studies we had seen that it is the one with the greatest antitumour capability in liver cancer cells that we have used,” Trepiana said. Inflammation is thought to cause cancer cells to spread.

Results, published in the journal Heliyon, suggest V. baccifera is toxic to liver tumour cells.

The Amazonian plant produces substances, such as hydrogen peroxide, that stop these cancerous cells from dividing and damages their Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA)/genetic material.

V. baccifera also triggers such tumours to commit suicide in a process known as apoptosis.

When comparing the plant’s effect in cancerous versus healthy cells, “only the cancer cells were affected; we found that these effects do not take place in healthy human liver cells and, previously, in rat cells”, Trepiana said.

“This is of huge interest because the most important thing is that healthy cells should remain unaffected.”

Meanwhile, this year’s Nobel laureates found brakes that keep immune cells called T cells (one shown) from attacking cancer. The laureates’ innovations remove those brakes, allowing the immune system to fight tumours.

James P. Allison of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University in Japan have won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for advances in harnessing the immune system to fight cancer.

All previous types of cancer therapy were directed at the tumor cell, but Allison’s and Honjo’s approach was to remove brakes that keep the immune system in check, unleashing it against tumor cells.

These “checkpoint inhibitor” therapies have greatly increased survival of cancer patients and may produce even greater results when combined with traditional therapies.

The researchers will equally share the prize of 9 million kronor, equivalent to just over $1 million.

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