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Sunday, 27 August, 2000, 01:53 GMT 02:53 UK
Cancer vaccine 'close'
Dr Alan Kingsman
Dr Alan Kingsman: Helped develop vaccine
Scientists believe they are close to developing a vaccine for cancer, and plan to begin trials later this year.

The vaccine has proved effective on mice - stopping the growth of all cancer tumours.

The vaccine is based on gene therapy and appears to wake up the body's immune system encouraging it to attack and kill cancer tumours.

Through gene therapy, the body's genes are taught to recognise cancer cells through a protein that only exists on the surface of tumours.

Worldwide effort

Professor Alan Kingsman, from Oxford Biomedica which has developed the vaccine, said the immune system attacks the tumours in the same way as it attacks normal infections.

"What the cancer vaccine seeks to do is get the body's immune system to destroy tumour cells, to see those tumour cells, recognise them as dangerous and destroy them in much the same way as it destroys viruses and bacteria when we get an infection."

He added: "Then the antibodies and cells of the immune system cruise around the body looking for that protein, recognise it as dangerous, and blow those cells away."

Scientists across the world are working on programmes aimed at developing an anti-cancer vaccine.

Dr Richard Sullivan
Dr Richard Sullivan: Gene therapy is the future
Most are using the latest gene technology to further their work.

Dr Richard Sullivan, from the Cancer Research Programme, suggested that any vaccine will come from gene therapy.

"Ultimately you have to understand that cancer really is a genetic disease and ultimately cures will probably come from targeting cancer cells at the genetic level so yes it probably is the future.

The Oxford company is hoping that the vaccine will prove as successful in humans as it has in mice.

It plans to begin clinical trials on humans before the end of the year.

However, work on the vaccine remains at an early stage. It will not be commercially available until 2007 at the earliest.

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See also:

10 Jul 00 | Health
Scientists discover cancer gene
05 Jul 00 | Health
Attempt to detect cancer earlier
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