LONDON — A vaccine for leukemia is about to be tested on human patients for the first time, in a breakthrough that could offer hope to thousands of people, the Telegraph reported Jan. 4.
British researchers have developed a treatment that can be used to stop the disease returning after chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant.
Eventually it is hoped the drug, which activates the body's own immune system against leukemia, could be used to treat other types of cancers.
The first patients will be treated this year as part of a small clinical trial at King's College London.
The patients in the trial have the form known as acute myeloid leukemia, the most common form in adults. Even with aggressive treatment half would usually find the disease returns.
The idea behind cancer “vaccines” is not necessarily to prevent the disease, Reuters health reported. Instead, once a patient has been diagnosed, the “vaccine” programs the immune system to hunt down cancer cells and destroy them.
The vaccine then prompts the immune system to recognize leukemia cells if they return, which prevents a relapse of the disease.
The vaccine is created by removing cells from the patient's blood and manipulating them in the laboratory.
The research is due to be published in the Journal of Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy shortly.
Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells and bone marrow and affects approximately 7,200 patients a year. About 4,300 people die from the disease annually.
"Vaccines against cancer are becoming a very interesting area of research and can offer a very beneficial alternative to punishing chemotherapy,” said Dr. David Grant, scientific director of the charity Leukemia Research.
"However it is very early days and we need to see the results of these trials before we know if this potential is going too be realised."