A modified version of the smallpox vaccine is being tested against cervical cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is associated with 95% of cervical cancer cases, but not everyone with the virus develops the cancer. Cervical cancer affects about 465,000 women worldwide each year and causes 300,000 deaths. If it is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages there is a high survival rate. //
Doctors at Britain's cancer Research Campaign hope the vaccine will boost the immune system's response to the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is linked to most cases of the illness, and prevent early cell changes from developing into cervical cancer. A modified version of the smallpox vaccine is being used because it has been shown to produce the type of immune response that the researchers are looking for.
In addition to treating women with pre-cancerous cell changes, scientists are also working on vaccines for women with advanced disease and preventive vaccines to protect young girls from becoming infected with HPV.
09 November 2007 - The smallpox vaccine is back! But don’t be alarmed, the smallpox disease is still eradicated. A joint research team from Stanford University and Jennerex Biotherapeutics, headed by Stephen Thorne, a virologist at the University of Pittsburgh, investigated into the smallpox vaccine’s potential in eradicating tumors. Results published in October 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed that liver tumor growths in rabbits can be deterred or even reversed. These results suggest a very optimistic outlook in the vaccine’s application as an anti-cancer treatment in humans.
The new smallpox vaccine, also known as vaccinia, is genetically engineered and more sophisticated than the original vaccine in its molecular activity. The researchers first removed two genes from the vaccinia virus to prevent its growth inside normal cells. This means that the virus will only infect and kill tumor cells. The researchers then introduced a new gene into the virus that causes it to produce chemicals that attract white blood cells. The white blood cells will locate vaccinia-infected tumor cells and destroy them. The two-front attack on tumor cells is what makes the modified vaccinia so effective.
“This is a very powerful and potent approach,” said Dr. Antonio Chiocca, a professor at Ohio State University and a specialist in Oncological Neurosurgery. “You can think of each of these viruses as a new drug.”
Despite progress in the treatment of cancer with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, only incremental advances have been made in improving survival rates, particularly in patients with disseminated carcinomas of the breast, lung, prostate and kidney. Moreover, most cancer treatments are compromised by substantial toxicities. Advances in our understanding of anti-tumor immunity and the genetic alterations that accumulate in the progression to malignancy have recently provided unforeseen opportunities for the development of more selective and safer therapeutic approaches. One such strategy involves the use of dendritic-cell-based vaccines. In this issue of Nature Medicine , Kugler et al. describe unprecedented regressions in patients with metastatic renal cancer using a new vaccine therapy based on fusions of dendritic cells and tumor cells. Moreover, this broadly applicable approach was associated with little if any toxicity.