New hope for cancer patients; Canadian scientists test viral vaccine

April 28th, 2009 - 9:42 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 28 (IANS) Spelling new hope for cancer patients, Canadian scientists have successfully tested a viral vaccine to improve immune response to the deadly disease.
The scientists at the local Princess Margaret Hospital and the University of Toronto, in collaboration with international researchers, have discovered how to trigger an improved immune response to cancer. They say their discovery could be included in new clinical trials that use a patient’s own cells to destroy tumours.

The discovery shows the potential of immunotherapy for cancer treatment, said principal investigator and University of Toronto medical biophysics professor Pamela Ohashi in a statement Monday.

In their laboratory study, the scientists combined interleukin-7 (IL-7) -which is a key component of the human immune system - with a viral vaccine to improve the ability of the cells of the immune system to attack tumours.

To their amazement, they found that the combination boosted immunity to tumours.

“We are extremely excited because our research has revealed the unexpected ways IL-7 works to break down barriers that naturally block the immune response to tumours. This is important because current vaccine approaches for immune therapy induce a response in just one to three per cent of patients,” said Ohashi, who is a senior scientist in signalling biology.

Added co-researcher and University of Toronto professor Tak Mak, “The promise of using the body’s own defences to fight cancer is enormous.

“The day is coming when immunotherapy may help spare cancer patients the toxic side-effects of traditional therapies and greatly improve their quality of life while treating the disease.”

The research was sponsored by the Canadian Institute for Health Research, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, the Terry Fox Foundation, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Boninchi Foundation of Geneva and the Irvington Institute with the Cancer Research Institute in New York.

The findings were published Monday online in Nature Medicine.

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