BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Roswell Park Cancer Institute is paving the way to new hope for cancer patients. The renowned hospital is now testing a possible vaccine, one that could wipe out cancer cells and prevent them from coming back.
This vaccine is showing so much promise, according to researchers at Roswell Park, that it may become one of the key ways of treating cancer and preventing relapse.
Dr. Kunle Odunsi said, "We are launching a new clinical trial that will harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer."
The vaccine, produced in a special chamber at Roswell that strictly controls temperature and atmospheric gasses, will use a special protein that will "recruit an army of killer immune cells that seek out and destroy cancer."
Roswell held a press conference (watch below) on Tuesday to officially launch the vaccine trial.
Dr. Christopher Choi said, "To train your immune system to recognize cancer and to fight it off."
What is truly remarkable about this discovery, is that the vaccine is designed to train the body's defenses to never forget how to kill cancer cells.
Roswell Park Immunologist Dr. Protul Shrikant discovered that a drug called Rapamycin, used for many years to prevent rejection of organ transplants, also produces immune cells that, in a sense, have "memory," always remembering that "cancer cells are bad, and should be attacked and killed." He said the discovery was quite accidental.
"It is kind of serendipitous because we just tested this concept that came from nowhere in a laboratory setting, and it did work. It's hard to imagine," said Dr. Shrikant.
18 to 20 patients fighting many different forms of cancer will be chosen for the first phase of clinical trials. Nancy Holiman, a fundraiser at Roswell Park, who has fought three types of cancer, most recently of the breast, hopes she will be among them. She wants the potential protection the vaccine offers.
Holiman said, "To know that you have something in your system and have this memory and be there long-term, I think would just give you, just another - help you with your peace of mind."
If the first phase of clinical trials is successful, larger studies will be conducted. It may be several years before the vaccine could be marketed, if it's proven to be cancer fighter for the life of the patient.
Early indications are that this new vaccine will not only fight cancer and also spare the patient the unpleasant side effects of other cancer treatments.
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