New Cancer Research: Teaching The Immune System To Fight Cancer

July 20, 2011

Lab Rats

Studies on mice show promise for a new cancer treatment.

It’s not easy to get the body to fight cancer. It has to be able to both  recognize the cancer, and then fight it. Too little of an immune response and the cancer persists…too much and suddenly there’s an auto-immune response complicating the cancer!

Now scientists are developing a vaccine to fight cancer. Most cancers aren’t caused by viruses (like HPV/cervical cancer), but a vaccine style-treatment may be a way to stimulate the immune system to fight cancer without overreacting into a full blown auto-immune attack.


The researchers at Mayo-Clinic began by focusing on prostate cancer and experimenting on mice infected with prostate cancer.

Taking a virus, which the immune system recognizes as something to attack, researchers attached markers for the prostate cancer. When the immune systems of the mice began attacking the virus, they also learned to attack the proteins related to the prostate cancer cells. In 80% of the mice, the prostate cancer was cured (multiple doses were needed).

This won’t necessarily be a vaccine for the prevention of cancer, like the HPV Vaccine, but one to treat it by stimulating the body’s own immune system. Compared to current cancer treatment, this could be a huge breakthrough.

Of course, clinical trials take years, so although this may become a successful treatment for cancer, we won’t know for sure for up to a decade. Plus, vaccines that target different cancers will have to go through their own cancer research trials.

What do you think? Would you (hypothetically) enroll in a clinical trial for a vaccine that treats cancer?

{ 1 comment }

Harvey Morgan July 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I think that I would enroll for a trial for such a vaccine. After reading so many horror stories about people getting too much radiation treatment because of mistakes by techs or malfunctioning equipment, it’s good to hear about alternative research that may not be as drastic. That’s even assuming that such treatments like radiation and chemotherapy even help more than they hurt. Hopefully such research will be allowed to foster and results will be visible within the next decade, and possibly even sooner!

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