Groundbreaking 'cancer vaccine' set for human trials by the end of the year

Human trials of a “cancer vaccine” found to have eliminated tumors in nearly all treated mice are expected to start before the end of the year, according to a report.

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Researchers at Stanford University's School of Medicine published a study earlier this year in the academic journal Science Translational Medicine that claimed to have developed a strategy to treat cancer through immunotherapy, a treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight a disease. Researchers injected small amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in about 90 mice. The technique obliterated cancerous cells in 87 of the mice.

Stanford University oncology professor Dr. Ronald Levy, who led the study published in January, told SFGate that Stanford plans to run a pair of trials of the treatment with about 35 test subjects by the end of the year. He said researchers are looking for subjects with low-grade lymphoma.

"Getting the immune system to fight cancer is one of the most recent developments in cancer," Levy told SFGate. "People need to know that this is in its early days and we are still looking for safety and looking to make this as good as it can be."

Levy said the drugs used in the treatment have already been proven safe for people and that the side effects known thus far include fever and soreness at the injection site, but not vomiting.

"It's the combination (of the drugs) that we are testing," Levy told SFGate.

He added that he doesn’t expect the Federal Drug Administration to give the treatment final approval until a year or two from now, if the treatment is cleared.

Levy is considered a leader in the field of cancer immunotherapy. His research previously led to the development of rituximab, a groundbreaking anticancer treatment for humans.

"All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice," Levy said in January. "I don't think there's a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this report.

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