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Now a personalised vaccine that can treat ovarian cancer

Ovarian cancer is one of the most common cancers seen in women and so far treating it has been a challenge for doctors. But that might just change. Now there is a new way to identify protein mutations in cancer cells, an Indian-origin researcher has developed a technique to create personalised vaccines to treat patients with ovarian cancer. 'This has the potential to dramatically change how we treat cancer,' said Pramod Srivastava from University of Connecticut Health Center in the US. The novelty of Srivastava's approach in this new research is that it results in a drug specifically designed for a single person.

The new technique works in mice and a human test will start in late 2014. If the approach proves safe and effective, it could be the ultimate in individualised medicine. 'This research will serve as the basis for the first ever genomics-driven personalised medicine clinical trial in immunotherapy of ovarian cancer, and will begin at UConn Health this fall (autumn),' Srivastava added. (Read: Now, a blood test that may improve ovarian cancer treatment)

The researchers will sequence DNA from the tumours of 15 to 20 women with ovarian cancer, and use that information to make a personalised vaccine for each woman. Previous researchers had looked at how strongly the immune system cells bound to the cancer's epitopes - sequence of proteins on a cell's exterior that the immune system 'sees' when it looks at a cell. This works when making vaccines against viruses, but not for cancers. (Read: Regular aspirin use could reduce ovarian cancer risk)

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Srivastava's team came up with a novel measure: they looked at how different the cancer epitopes were from the mice's normal epitopes. And it worked. When mice were inoculated with vaccines made of the cancer epitopes differing the most from normal tissue, they were very resistant to skin cancer. Theoretically, this approach could work for other cancers, although the research has yet to be done.The findings appeared in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

What are the symptoms of Ovarian Cancer?

Traditionally, it was believed that ovarian cancer showed no symptoms until it has affected other organ systems; however in June 2007 the American Cancer Society released a list of possible early symptoms of ovarian cancer. The symptoms include:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Urgent or frequent urination
  • Loss of appetite or feeling full quickly

Treatment :

If a woman is found to have ovarian cancer, the doctor usually uses a biopsy sample to determine the stage of the cancer and how far the cancer has spread. The stage of the cancer is determined by the following markers:

Stage I: When the cancer is confined to one or both the ovaries.

Stage II: If one or both ovaries are involved with spread to the uterus and/or the fallopian tubes or other places in the pelvis.

Stage III: If one or both the ovaries are involved and the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other sites within the abdomen. Read more about Are you at risk for ovarian cancer?

With inputs from IANS

Photo source: Getty images


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