London: Scientists claim to have developed a "universal" cancer vaccine that can train patients` own bodies to seek out and destroy tumour cells.
A team from Tel Aviv University and drug company Vaxil Biotheraputics say the therapy targets a molecule found in 90 per cent of all cancers, and could soon pave the way for
a universal injection that allows patients` immune systems to fight off common cancers including breast and prostate cancer.
Preliminary results from early clinical trials have shown that the vaccine can trigger an immune response in patients and reduce levels of disease, `The Sunday Telegraph` reported.
Now, the scientists hope to conduct larger trials in patients to prove it can be effective against a range of different cancers.
In fact, they believe it could be used to combat small tumours if they are detected early enough or to prevent the return of the disease in patients who have undergone other
forms of treatment such as surgery.
Cancer cells usually evade patient`s immune systems because they are not recognised as being a threat. While the immune system usually attacks foreign cells such as bacteria,
tumours are formed of patient`s own cells that malfunctioned.
The scientists have, however, found that a molecule called MUC1, found in high amounts on the surface of cancer cells, can be used to help immune system detect tumours.
The vaccine uses a small section of the molecule to prime the immune system so that it can identify and destroy cancer cells, say the scientists.
A statement from Vaxil Biotheraputics said: "ImMucin generated a robust and specific immune response in all patients which was observed after only 2-4 doses of the
vaccine out of a maximum of 12 doses. In some of the patients, preliminary signs of clinical efficacy were observed."
In a safety trial at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, 10 patients suffering from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, have now received the vaccine.
Seven of the patients have now finished the treatment and Vaxil reported that all of them had greater immunity against cancer cells compared to before they were given the vaccine.
Vaxil added that three patients are now free of detectable cancer following the treatment.
The results are still to be formally published but if further trials prove to be successful the vaccine could be available within six years, according to the researchers.
Dr Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "These are very early results that are yet to be fully published, so there`s a lot more work to be done
to prove that this particular vaccine is safe and effective in cancer patients."