Docs Corral Immune System to Battle Cancer

By Drew Nelles,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2009 5:05 PM CDT
Docs Corral Immune System to Battle Cancer
Olga Barrantes, who had a mastectomy to remove breast cancer, receives radiation treatment for skin cancer at a clinic in San Jose, Tuesday, May 26, 2009.   (AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)

After decades of false starts, doctors are tapping the immune system to help stave off cancer, USA Today reports. Using proteins from patients' tumors, American researchers have created a vaccine that can put off lymphoma relapses by 14 months. In one study, a cocktail of the vaccine and two other proteins fooled immune systems into attacking the cancer, even though it arises from human tissues, not a foreign body.

Patients who received both the protein vaccine and immune boosters relapsed after 44 months, the study found, while those who only got boosters relapsed after 30. The vaccine can only treat cancer, not prevent it. "It's a remarkable initial step," a doctor says. "But it's not a home run." (More cancer stories.)

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