Leukaemia vaccine breakthrough

By
Tuesday, 11 December, 2001


An effective leukaemia vaccine could be available within a few years following a breakthrough by scientists in the UK.

The team has identified a weakness in the abnormal blood cells that cause chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), paving the way to the development of a vaccine.

A US group has synthesised an artificial peptide - a piece of a protein - which shows promise, but the UK team has identified the actual peptide produced by leukaemic cells which is targeted by the immune system. This will greatly accelerate work to develop the first practical vaccine against CML.

Professor Alejandro Madrigal, scientific director at the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust, London, who led the research, said: "This is a very important discovery. In some ways you could call it a breakthrough. In just a few years there could be a vaccine for CML. It could be used to treat individual patients but there's no reason why you could not extend it to the general population to prevent the disease.''

Professor Madrigal's team at the Anthony Nolan Research Institute laboratories collaborated with scientists at Nottingham Trent and Liverpool universities.

A simple vaccine could be made using the peptide to trigger an immune system reaction against the cancer. Alternatively, said Professor Madrigal, T-cells could be grown in the laboratory and trained to recognise the molecule.

They could then be used as a treatment in their own right. The cells would not have to be returned to the patient they came from. They could be stored and given to any patient who provides a close enough match, just as bone-marrow transplants are carried out today.

For more information go to the Anthony Nolan Research Institute.

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