Curbing Cancer

With the WHO predicting a 70% rise in incidence of cancer by 2030, the focus globally is on control and prevention. The hunt for vaccines became more intense over the last decade, but after initial successes, most studies ended returning disappointing results. Thus, a recent safety testing of a personalised cancer vaccine—derived from tumour proteins—yielding exciting results for cancer suppression is quite the breakthough.

As per a research published in Science magazine, a vaccine developed from mutated tumour proteins harvested from the melanoma (a form of skin cancer) of three patients caused their tumours to shrink or remain stable. Given how previous efforts to create a cancer vaccine failed—most proteins used to create antigens for such vaccines are abundant in tumour cells but are also present in healthy cells and, therefore, fail to spark any significant immune response—the US-based researchers who have developed the new vaccine were on the look out for mutated proteins present only in the tumour cells. After being exposed to seven of these proteins in a lab, the dendritic cells—key mediators between the innate and adaptive immune systems of the human body—were injected into the individuals and helped target the cancerous cells. The antigens the immune system now recognised were melanoma-specific. Hence, the immune response was stronger than previously recorded for a cancer vaccine. Given how the cost of cancer cure is rising—a Yale University study found that for breast cancer, the cost of treatment went up in the US by as much as two times between 1994-96 and 2004-06—the vaccine holds a lot of promise for colon, breast and lung cancers (these cancers are particularly known for their high load of mutated proteins). More so with 60% of the new cancer cases occurring in the developing and poor countries, in Africa, Asia, and Central & South America.