New York: With a new way to identify protein mutations in cancer cells, an Indian-origin researcher has developed a technique to create personalised vaccines to treat patients with ovarian cancer.
"This has the potential to dramatically change how we treat cancer," said Pramod Srivastava from University of Connecticut Health Center in the US.
The novelty of Srivastava's approach in this new research is that it results in a drug specifically designed for a single person.
The new technique works in mice and a human test will start in late 2014.
If the approach proves safe and effective, it could be the ultimate in individualised medicine.
"This research will serve as the basis for the first ever genomics-driven personalised medicine clinical trial in immunotherapy of ovarian cancer, and will begin at UConn Health this fall (autumn)," Srivastava added.
The researchers will sequence DNA from the tumours of 15 to 20 women with ovarian cancer, and use that information to make a personalised vaccine for each woman.
Previous researchers had looked at how strongly the immune system cells bound to the cancer's epitopes - sequence of proteins on a cell's exterior that the immune system 'sees' when it looks at a cell. This works when making vaccines against viruses, but not for cancers.
Srivastava's team came up with a novel measure: they looked at how different the cancer epitopes were from the mice's normal epitopes.
And it worked. When mice were inoculated with vaccines made of the cancer epitopes differing the most from normal tissue, they were very resistant to skin cancer.
Theoretically, this approach could work for other cancers, although the research has yet to be done.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.