A pancreatic cancer vaccine is being studied, and more than 1,000 patients with an advanced stage of the cancer have joined a trial at 53 hospitals in the U.K., BBC News reported.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers: The overall 5-year relative survival for 1999-2006 was 5.6 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Usually vaccines are used to fight infections, but the TeloVac trial is hoping this approach, which combines the vaccine with chemotherapy, will stimulate the immune system and fight the disease.
The vaccine contains telomerase, a protein that is over-produced by cancer cells. Scientists want to target the tumors by making the immune system recognize the telomerase.
“The problem is tumors are clever and are able to turn the immune cells into traitors, which help guard the tumor,” said Professor John Neotolemos of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, one of the hospitals coordinating the trial. “The vaccine takes away the masking effect of the tumor.”
If the vaccine works, it will not be a cure, but rather it will prolong life for a pancreatic cancer patient, according to Cancer Research UK, which is funding the trial.
The final stage of the trial should have results sometime in 2012.