Scientists have developed an experimental vaccine, which seems promising against lung cancer. They claim that this vaccine could slow down or even halt the recurrence of non-small lung cancer. Non-small lung cancer is the most common form of the cancer. It is related to smoking and is usually difficult to treat. Till date treatment for non-small lung cancer has been very limited and usually involves removal of the tumor, chemotherapy or both. But now scientists are experimenting with a new vaccine, which seems to be effective against lung cancer.
A study involving 43 patients (out of which 10 had early stage cancer and 33 had advanced stage cancer) was conducted. All the patients underwent a surgery in which their tumor was removed after which they were injected with a vaccine called GVAX. The vaccine included cells from their own tumor. A gene called GM-CSF (granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor) was placed within the cancer cells and it helped to change the surface of the cells so that the body could identify them as cancerous. The vaccine was thus noted to help stimulate the body’s immune system to identify the cancer cells and subsequently attack and destroy them.
The patients were given the vaccine every 2 weeks for a period of 3 months. After following-up the patients for 3 years the researchers found that the cancer disappeared in 3 of the advanced stage patients (out of which 2 had shown poor response to chemotherapy) and in the rest of the advanced cases the cancer remained stable and did not spread for almost 5 months to more than 2 years. In advanced stages of lung cancer chemotherapy may work in 3% of cases and survival is around 8-9 months. However, after giving the vaccine the cases, which went into remission, were able to survive for a period of at least 3 years. Unlike chemotherapy the vaccine had no side effects. However, the vaccine did not make much of a difference in patients with early stage cancer.
The researchers conclude that the results of the study seem to be very promising for patients suffering from non-small lung cancer, which is usually resistant to chemotherapy. However, the vaccine is still in its experimental stage and requires some more clinical trials before it can be recommended for public use.
Reference: Journal of the National Cancer Institute