Personalised cancer vaccine shows success

Personalised melanoma skin cancer vaccines tailored to individual patients have shown promise in an early clinical trial.
Personalised melanoma skin cancer vaccines tailored to individual patients have shown promise in an early clinical trial.
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CANCER vaccines personalised to individual patients have produced highly promising results in an early clinical trial.

The vaccines against deadly melanoma skin cancer triggered a “very strong” immune response in three patients with no adverse side effects.

Scientists are so encouraged by the results that they believe they could potentially pave the way to personalised treatments, not only for melanoma but other cancers as well.

Crucially, the customised vaccines appeared to boost the number and diversity of immune system “killer T-cells” that target tumours.

Trial leader Dr Gerald Linette, from America’s Washington University School of Medicine, said: “This proof-of-principle study shows that these custom-designed vaccines can elicit a very strong immune response.

“Our results are preliminary, but we think the vaccines have therapeutic potential based on the breadth and remarkable diversity of the T-cell response.”

Findings from the first three patients given the treatment are published in the journal Science.

Melanoma tissue samples typically carry 500 or more mutated genes, producing altered proteins. Starting with these mutations, the scientists narrowed their search by identifying proteins not only present in tumours but also likely to be seen as “non-self” by the immune system.

The results suggest a similar approach could be used to produce vaccines against other cancers with high mutation rates, such as those affecting the lung, bladder and bowel.