Leukaemia vaccine ready for patients
A new vaccine which successfully treated mice with leukaemia will undergo the first human trials this year.
Leukaemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow. There are many different types of leukaemia which are usually treated through chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant. Scientists will be using the newly developed vaccine to help treat patients with acute myeloid leukaemia, which occurs when there is an overproduction of immature white blood cells. The over-abundant immature cells fill up the bone marrow, reducing the space available to create normal blood cells. Sometimes the cells may be released into the blood circulatory system and are unable to function like normal blood cells, causing anaemia and bruising.
The vaccine does not prevent the disease but treats diagnosed patients and protects them against future problems. It has been created using the patients' own blood cells by adding two genes which help the immune system to recognize and destroy leukaemia cells. As a result the vaccine helps prevent the disease recurring after traditional treatments.
The trials on mice have been crucial in the development of the vaccine for use in humans. Mice injected with the vaccine had an extended life, equivalent to 25 years in humans. Almost half did not have a relapse.
Scientists hope that if the first human trials are successful, the vaccine will be able to treat other forms of leukaemia and cancer.