By Daniel Martin
‘Holy Grail’ cancer vaccine that blasts tumours in weeks hailed as huge leap in fighting disease
Scientists have developed a new jab which they hope will be a ‘holy grail’ cancer cure.
The treatment, which will be tested on British patients over the next few months, can reverse and even cure malignant melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
If it proves successful in large- scale trials, there are hopes that new forms could be developed to fight other forms of cancer, such as breast and prostate.
Experts say it may even stop people getting cancer in the first place.
Lead researcher Professor Lindy Durrant, of Nottingham University, said:
‘This is huge. We could now have a vaccine that can target a tumour and kill it without damage to surrounding healthy tissues or cells.
‘In the short term, this could cure some patients with the disease, and in the long term it could be used to prevent people developing it in the first place.’
Professor Karol Sikora, a leading cancer expert, said: ‘This is a very clever vaccine and I believe it will increase the cure rate for patients in the future.’ More than 10,000 people are diagnosed with malignant melanoma every year in Britain.
Numbers have quadrupled over the past 30 years as more people enjoy sunshine holidays abroad or use tanning booths.
The vaccine contains DNA and fragments of tumour. These activate only the specific immune cells which target melanoma.
The treatment, developed by the company Scancell, will initially be given both to patients with advanced skin cancer which has spread to other parts of the body, and to those in the earlier stage of the disease.
Trials will begin at hospitals in Manchester, Nottingham and Newcastle. If successful, the jab could be available within ten years.
Professor Durrant said previous cancer jabs did not work because they stimulated the body’s whole immune system, not just the parts which attack cancer cells. ‘This time we believe the immune cells are more potent and will kill cancer cells,’ she said.
She believes the vaccine could be adapted to fight other tumours.