Daily Telegraph Saturday 14th December 2013

By Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent

“Vaccine that turns off prostate cancer could save thousands of lives”

A vaccine that prevents prostate cancer is a step closer after scientists discovered a protein that stops tumour growth on 90 per cent of cases.

Researchers at Nottingham Trent University found that injecting part of a protein into cells surrounding the tumour accelerates the level of activity in the body’s immune system. The immune system then prevents the tumour growing any further, effectively “switching off” the cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for men in Britain, where more than 40,000 cases are diagnosed each year. A vaccine that works in 90% of tumours could save thousands of lives.

“Developing cancer vaccines that can overcome the capacity of tumours to “evade” the immune system is essential for the development of new therapies for aggressive disease” said Dr Stephanie McArdle, the lead researcher at the University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre. The only vaccine that currently exists for prostate cancer uses the blood of the sufferer. It is treated to make its antibodies recognise the cancerous cell, before being injected back into the body. The vaccine has only been found to extend life by four months.

Scientists said the new vaccine would be cheaper to produce and could be given to patients in a relatively simple formulation.

Although the discovery has so far only been made in the laboratory and tested on mice, scientists are hoping to begin clinical trials soon.

Dr Ian Frame, the director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said; “There are simply too few treatment options available for men with advanced prostate cancer and we need to offer men a greater choice of effective therapies.

If successful it could lead to a new generation of immunotherapies.

Although this a good mouse model, it’s too early to tell whether this study will translate into humans, so we need to see further investigation to see if this treatment may have benefits for men with prostate cancer.

One man dies from prostate cancer every hour, so we need more research into better treatments in order to beat it once and for all”

Dr Anthea Martin, Cancer research UK’s science information manager, said: “Harnessing the power of our own immune system to fight off cancer holds huge promise – it’s an approach that our scientists and many others around the world are working on. This research gives valuable clues for improving the next generation of vaccines”

Robert Rees, a professor of tumour biology and director of the university’s cancer research centre, said: “It is vital that we develop new ways of treating patients and would hope that in the future men with advanced prostate cancer would be offered immumutherapy as a form of treatment.

The same vaccine could also be used to treat patients in the early stages of the disease alongside other currently used traeatments”

Prof. Rees said the number of deaths from prostate cancer meant it was “important that the urgent need for therapy, especially for patients with advanced [prostate cancer] is addressed”.

The research was published in the European Journal of Immunology.