Progress For Anti-Cancer Vaccine

Wednesday, 20 September, 2000

An anti-cancer vaccine to treat breast cancer employs a 'Trojan horse' technique that triggers a patient's genes to make its own healing medicine.

It has been discovered that by taking a virus cell and removing its genetic material rendering it harmless, it could then accommodate a therapeutic gene that would replicate its healing properties.

Using this technique, the virus can be used as a vehicle that invades diseased cells of the body but, instead of depositing its own harmful genetic material, releases its multiplying therapeutic agents.

Called Trovax, the gene-based anti-cancer vaccine alerts the body's immune system and it works on the basis that the cells of cancer tumours have different proteins that single them out from normal, healthy tissue.

A pox virus contains the gene that produces these invasive proteins. By exposing them to the virus-delivery gene the immune system is taught to recognise cancer cells as an enemy and destroy them. The killer cells and antibodies then circulate throughout the body looking for cells carrying this protein and then proceeds to eradicate them.

Trials on mice have proved successful but it is not likely that Trovax will be used on humans until next year.

Initially, it is expected the vaccine will be used on cancer patients to find out if it can prevent the disease from spreading to other areas of the body.

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