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A vaccine which helps patients battle cancer could be available on the mainstream medical market in just under two years, revolutionising the way that we treat cancer and help people suffering from the disease.
The TeloVac jab is one of a new generation of drugs which aim to use the body’s defences to fight cancer, managing to stop tumours in their tracks. The drug has already been trialled in labs and on humans suffering from pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease, but is hoped to become a breakthrough and be used effectively against many other types of tumours, including those on the skin, lung and liver, with breast and prostate cancers being next on the list for the drug to aid treatment with.
Together, the various forms of cancer claim over 70,000 lives a year in the UK, and there are forms of the disease which haven’t had innovative or new treatments introduced to patients for over 40 years, meaning that survival rates haven’t improved since the 1970’s.
Although most vaccines are designed to prevent disease in patients, this Telovac jab has been developed as a treatment. Rather than attacking the cancer cells directly, like many forms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, it harnesses the power of the individual body’s immune system to fight the tumours from within.
The drug encourages the immune system to seek out and destroy an enzyme, telomerase, which is found at higher levels in cancer cells than the normal cells within the body, and allows the cancer cells to live on in circumstances when normal healthy cells would die – encouraging the growth and spread of the tumour.
Professor Neoptolemos, of Liverpool University, helped with the trials and said: “It is like the immune system has a blindfold on and the vaccine takes the blindfold off.”
The trial, which was the largest of it’s kind in the UK, had more and 1,000 men and women in the later stages of pancreatic cancer receiving the vaccine alongside their normal drugs or treated as usual. The results will not be fully published until next year, but patients have accredited their participation in the trials as the reason behind their extended life. In earlier trials, conducted on a much smaller scale, the vaccine managed to give those in the very advanced stages of the disease an average of an extra three months of life.
Dr Jay Sangjae Kim, the founder of the Korean company which is developing TeloVac said: “We strongly believe that this has the potential to overcome the limits of other current cancer treatments and become part of the standard of care not only for pancreatic cancer but for various other types of vaccines. In other words, a truly ‘universal’ vaccine will be available in the near future.”