Scientists have produced a vaccine that can train patients’ bodies to find and destroy tumour cells.
ImMucin has been developed by the drug company Vaxil Biotherapeutics and researchers at Tel Aviv University who have studied a protein called MUC1, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Scientists have discovered that MUC1, which is found on the surface of cancer cells, can be used to trigger a response in the patient’s immune system to detect and fight tumours.
The therapy could provide a “universal injection” to help people fight common cancers such as breast, prostate, pancreatic, bowel and ovarian cancer.
Preliminary results from clinical trials suggest that the vaccine can trigger an immune response in patients and reduce levels of disease, according to the Sunday Telegraph.
Vaxil Biotherapeutics said: “ImMucin generated a robust and specific immune response in all patients which was observed after only two to four doses of the vaccine out of a maximum of 12 doses. In some of the patients, preliminary signs of clinical efficacy were observed.”
While the scientists hope to continue trials to prove the effectiveness of the vaccine, they believe it could be used to treat small tumours or to prevent the return and spread of the disease.
The Daily Mail reports that participants of a safety trial at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem had “greater immunity” to the blood cancer multiple myeloma after receiving the vaccine.
Ten people took part, and three of the seven people who have finished the treatment are now free of “detectable” cancer. The only side-effect they experienced was "minor irritation".
The scientists behind the vaccine hope to conduct more extensive trials in patients to prove its effectiveness.
The human immune system usually does not recognise cancer cells because tumours are formed of a person’s own cells and not recognised as a threat.
MUC1 is found in normal cells, according to the Telegraph, but levels are too low for the vaccine to trigger the immune system.
The results are still to be published formally, but the Daily Mail reports that if trials continue successfully, the vaccine could be on the market by 2020.