CLINICAL TRIALS: Tailor-Made Cancer Vaccines Show Promise
In the race to find vaccines against cancer, some companies are focusing their research on "custom-made vaccines," the Wall Street Journal reports today in a front-page profile. Six companies currently are conducting human trials for vaccines manufactured from a patient's own cells for diseases including kidney, skin and breast cancers. Researchers found that "heat- shock proteins," which help repair cell heat damage, attach themselves to tumors and provide a "crib sheet" that tells the body what to fight, offering hope for a cancer vaccine. While opponents contend that such vaccines will not be cost effective - - they may run patients between $10,000 and $15,000 apiece -- researchers say that many patients receiving these vaccines experience milder or no side effects (Johannes, 11/18). Other clinical findings this week include:
- A study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine found that men who drink alcohol in moderation can reduce their risk of stroke. Researchers tracked 22,000 male physicians for 12 years and found that those who consumed between one drink per week and one drink per day decreased by 20% their risk of ischemic stroke -- the most common form of stroke caused by blood clots. There was no reported decrease in stroke risk for those who consumed more than one drink daily (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 11/18).
- Thalidomide is making a comeback, appearing useful in the treatment of multiple myeloma, a lethal form of bone cancer, according to another study in Thursday's issue of the NEJM. Of 84 patients with multiple myeloma, nearly one-third had a positive response -- a reduction in the amount of abnormal protein cells in the blood or urine -- to thalidomide while 10% experienced complete or near-complete remission of their cancer. Researchers believe thalidomide works by cutting of the tumors' blood supply ( AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 11/18).
- Italian researchers have discovered a gene that plays a major role in aging in mice, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. The researchers found the gene makes a protein called P-66, which causes cells to self-destruct once they have suffered oxygen damage. Genetically altering the mice to lack the trigger protein increased the life span of the mice by 30% "with no apparent harm" (Wade, New York Times, 11/18).