Prostate Cancer Vaccine One Step Closer

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Scientists in Ireland have developed a vaccine has successfully destroyed secondary prostate cancer in animals. This work brings researchers one step closer to hopefully producing a prostate cancer vaccine that is effective in man.

Prostate cancer is a worldwide problem. Recent accurate figures for the number of prostate cancer cases around the world are not available, but according to the Cancer Research UK website, more than 670,000 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, and the numbers have been growing ever since. It is the second most common cancer in men after lung cancer in the world. Seventy-five percent of new cases are diagnosed in the developed world, with the highest rates occurring in North America (especially the United States) and the lowest in Asian countries.

The DNA-based vaccine was developed at the Cork Cancer Research Centre at University College Cork. It is based on the ability of DNA to stimulate the immune system to attack any prostate cancer cells that remain after conventional surgical treatments have taken place. The study’s scientists are now discussing how to bring the vaccine to human trials.

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The question of safety is always a concern with vaccines, and the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Mark Tangney, noted in the Irish Times that the research team showed that “immune activation with DNA vaccines is safe.”

The prostate cancer vaccine is meant to be used along with existing treatment that involves surgical removal of the tumor followed by radiotherapy. The vaccine searches for and destroys any lingering cancer cells that may have traveled to other parts of the body.

In the United States, prostate cancer is second only to skin cancer as the most common cancer in males. The American Cancer Society estimated that 192,280 new cases of the cancer would be diagnosed in 2009, with 27,360 deaths. In Ireland, the site of the recent study, the incidence and death rate for prostate cancer is higher than it is in the United Kingdom. In any country, the development of a prostate cancer vaccine will be most welcome.

SOURCES:
American Cancer Society
Cancer Research UK
IrishTimes.com Feb. 5, 2010

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