Last updated July 17, 2017 at 11:25 am
Personalised skin cancer vaccines have been proven safe in first ever human trials.
Fist pump, run around in circles, dance a little jig – do whatever you need to do to express your excitement at this huge step in cancer treatment: Personalised immunotherapy cancer vaccines have been proven safe in human trials. Not only were they safe, which is the part scientists were actually testing and can therefore shout from the rooftops, but the vaccines actually worked! There will be further trials to validate their efficacy, but there is a huge case for optimism.
Lots of cancer treatments are problematic as they destroy not only cancer cells, but healthy cells as well. Immunotherapy is such a promising solution because by using the patient’s own immune system the treatment can be highly targeted.
Two studies showing similar excellent results have just been released, one from the US and one from Germany. Both were testing patients with skin cancer, specifically a type of high-risk melanoma. Every tumour is different, so for each person they had to modify a vaccine with up to 20 specific adjustments.
In the American study, four out of six patients showed no tumour recurrence after 25 months. The remaining two had a slightly worse from of melanoma, so had an extra type of therapy. They then also showed complete tumour regression. For the Germans, all 13 patients showed tumour-specific immunity, and eight were tumour free after 23 months.
Because each vaccine has to be designed for each individual person, this type of cancer treatment is resource intensive. But if it really works, it will be interesting to see whether further studies lead to simpler and broader applications.