Researchers at the University of Leeds and the Mayo Clinic have developed an immunotherapeutic vaccine that has shown promising results for curing prostate cancer in mice. But Reuters notes that although Dendreon's Provenge, another therapeutic vaccine, has been FDA approved, the path to approval will still be difficult.
"The biggest challenge in immunology is developing antigens that can target the tumor without causing harm elsewhere," Alan Melcher, co-leader of the study, told Reuters. "By using DNA from the same part of the body as the tumor...we may be able to solve that problem."
While Melcher's approach is in the early stages, and so far has only been tested in mice, he believes his DNA application could be used to combat breast cancer and other cancer types. The vaccine contains a virtual "library" of DNA fragments from the cancer-ridden organ, so it can target multiple cancer antigens without overstimulating the immune system.
Despite the low odds of success in the general field, the scientists and the Association for International Cancer Research are optimistic about the study. "[The vaccine] shows that this approach--using a library vaccine--works in a model system. This could be used for almost any type of cancer, if it can be developed to the point where it works in man," said Dr. Mark Matfield, scientific coordinator at AICR, in a release.
The study is published in Nature Medicine, and the team hopes a vaccine will be ready for human testing in a few years.