A team at the University of Connecticut is in the process of developing a clinically safe and personalized ovarian cancer vaccine. After four years of investigation, the team has succeeded in creating a vaccine that leaves mice resistant to cancer cells. They are now in the process of submitting the vaccine to the FDA for approval so that it can begin moving through clinical trials with the eventual goal of widespread implementation (assuming, of course, that the vaccine is as successful in humans as it has been in lab mice). Dr. Pramod Srivastava, one of the study’s principal investigators, comments, “this has the potential to dramatically change how we treat cancer”.
Typically, when ‘bad’ cells attack our bodies, our immune system fights them off. Our immune system cannot always detect cancerous cells because of their many similarities to normal, healthy cells. A piece of information that our immune system uses to gauge a cell’s danger level is a protein sequence called an epitope. By closely comparing epitopes from healthy mice tissue to epitopes from cancerous mice tissue, the researchers were able to create a vaccine that will help the immune system to recognize the ‘bad’ cancerous cells and get rid of them. To everyone’s benefit, the vaccine the researchers developed as a result of their investigation was successful in creating a resistance to cancer in mice.
The researchers chose to try their vaccine on ovarian cancer because it is generally very responsive to surgery and chemotherapy but carries a greater risk of return within 1-2 years.
As the 5th leading cause of death in American women, ovarian cancer provides an urgent starting point and a “perfect window” for clinical trials—the physicians could know within a few short years whether or not the vaccine works or needs further development.
Although years will pass before the vaccine moves through clinical trials and into regular treatment plans, these findings are very encouraging in our ongoing fight against cancer. Those with family histories of cancer and/or those with abnormal symptoms a doctor considers concerning should be undergoing regular screening tests to rule out warning signs of cancer such as precancerous cells. The earlier that cancer is found, the better one’s prognosis becomes. If you or a loved one has experienced a devastating delay in the diagnosis of cancer, contact our firm for a free consultation. To read more about cancer misdiagnosis, visit our cancer misdiagnosis webpage. To read more about UConn’s exciting announcement on the ovarian cancer vaccine, visit their public release here. To read more about ovarian cancer and US statistics, visit the American Cancer Society’s ovarian cancer page.