Johns Hopkins researchers have reported the first successful use of genetic therapy to activate the human immune system against prostate cancer. The results are published in the October 15 issue of Cancer Research. The Johns Hopkins gene therapy for prostate cancer is tailor-made for patients.
The vaccine activates the immune system against malignant cells that remain once the tumour has been removed. It uses cells from the patient's tumour injected with the GM-CSF gene, which the researchers describe as 'the most potent gene known to activate the immune system to recognise tumour antigens'. 'Using gene therapy, we re-educated the immune system to recognise prostate cancer cells as a potential infection and attack,' said Jonathan Simons, associate professor of oncology and urology, who led the study. 'We were astounded to find that every part of the immune system was alerted and turned on'. The team treated 11 prostate cancer patients whose cancer continued to spread following total surgical removal of their prostate glands.
Based on the research reported in Cancer Research, the researchers are conducting larger trials using a genetically engineered prostate cancer vaccine that does not require surgery.
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