May 21, 2010
A team of researchers from Middlesex University have developed a vaccine approach which could be the first of a whole new generation of cancer drugs with the potential to target specific cancers at source. This technique could lead to far quicker treatment of aggressive cancers, with patients experiencing fewer of the side-effects which chemotherapy often causes.
World expert in biomedical science, Professor Ray Iles, and colleagues at Middlesex University’s Centre for Investigative and Diagnostic Oncology, are currently working with US pharmaceutical company, Celldex Therapeutics, to test the vaccine in clinical trials involving patients who have recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Initial results suggest that the lives and prognoses for thousands of cancer sufferers may improve radically and it is thought that the technique could ultimately delay the onset of certain types of cancer.
Bladder cancer affects four times as many men as women, with 10,000 new cases being diagnosed in the UK each year. It is the fourth most common cancer in men and is the sixth most common cause of cancer death amongst men in the UK. At present, 75% of cases are lethal. The vaccine will be trialled over a five year period, amongst a group of 60 newly-diagnosed patients with the cancer.
For Professor Iles, this is a real highpoint in a twenty-year research career in biomedical science. In 1987 he discovered that certain cancers, including bladder cancer, produce a fragment of the pregnancy hormone hCGβ – known in the science world as ‘HCG’ – which encourages aggressive activity by cancerous cells. Since then, a series of studies have been conducted by Professor Iles and Dr Stephen Butler, another member of the Middlesex team, culminating in the development of the vaccine by Celldex. The vaccine targets and neutralises the cells producing this hormone, before these cells have the chance to attack other, healthy cells.