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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 21:10 GMT


Health

Patient injected with cancer vaccine

Vaccine could combat cancer

Doctors have injected the first cancer patient with a new "designer vaccine" which they hope will kill cancer cells using genetic technology.

Cancer specialists hope that the vaccine will boost the immune system and trigger a reaction which will destroy cancer cells.

The patient, Catherine Nosrati, 42, who has a lymphoma, was given the vaccine at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital in Dorset.

Up to 70 patients in Southampton, Bournemouth and Manchester will be injected with the vaccine over a 12-week period. Tests will be carried out after a month to find if it has triggered a reaction in the patients' immune systems.

Professor Terry Hamblin, a member of the team testing the vaccine at the Tenovus Institute in Southampton, said that the treatment was a DNA carrier vaccine and that it was a "world first" in the area.

He said it would only be used on lymphoma-type cancers, but may later be adapted to tackle other types of cancer, including breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer.

Designer vaccines

In a "designer vaccine", genetic material from a cancer cell is combined with a harmless part of a toxin. The theory is that the body's immune system is awoken by the presence of the toxin and act against it, destroying the cancer cells at the same time.

"The end point of the trial is if we can find any immune response against the cancer," said Professor Hamblin.

"If we do it could be inadequate, the cancer may relapse of it may not. If in sufficient patients we find an immune response we would go to random trials with patients all over the country."

The vaccine will be given to patients who have already been treated for cancer.

A spokesman for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund said: "It clearly holds potential for the future and much larger-scale trials are needed.

"But the question is whether these "designer vaccines" will need to be adapted for different patients, because if that is the case, it will be too expensive for the NHS."



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