While cancer is an understandably dreadful thing for any living being to suffer through and despite continuing innovation in treating it, the disease somehow remains a rampant threat to life on this planet.
Now it seems that a joint research team between Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have stumbled upon a new vaccine, coined the “NeoVax” treatment, that may illuminate a way to counteract cancer. Details in an accompanying press release indicate that this new treatment has been quite proficient at dealing with tumor growth within patients struggling with melanoma, cancer within the pigmentation cells of the skin.
Findings for the vaccine were published within “Nature Medicine” and mention that the vaccine has continued to be effective four years after patients received it.
Dr. Catherine J. Wu of BWH, a co-leader of the study, remarked that such findings indicate that a personal necantigen vaccine could inspire a lasting immune response within melanoma patients. She added that it seems the initial targeted responce had broadened over the years continue providing protection against the dreaded condition.
Research into this particular vaccine entailed ongoing analysis of eight patients whom had all undergone surgical procedures to cope with advanced melanoma yet were deemed to have a high chance of recurrence. After four years of time had passed since their initial treatment of NeoVax, all of the patients continue to live on with six of them, 75%, showing no evidence that the cancer remained active.
Dr. Patrick A Ott of BWH, the other co-leader of the study, said that all evidence pointed toward a strong and sustained response from the immune system in their test subjects.
While this news is certainly something to cheer on, the small sample size of the research means that more studies need to be held involving a greater number of patients to gain a viable understanding of NeoVax’s reliability in fighting cancer. For now, Dr. Ott has interpreted the results as a strong indicator of the viability in using personal vaccines to manage metastatic tumors.
More on cancer
Cancer is one of humanity’s longest fought medical woes and manifests in abnormal growth and development of cells within the body, leading to bleeding, long bouts of coughing, lumps, mysterious weight loss and even a shift in the patient’s bowel movements. Over 100 different varieties of cancer have been documented that affect the human body.
The disease’s name comes from a Greek word that means both “crab” and “tumor,” inspired by how early physicians noticed the telltale tumors resembling the shape of a crab’s chitinous exoskeleton. All tumor cells feature six hallmarks of cancer and are required to generate a malignant tumor. These hallmarks would be.
- Growth and division of cells without the proper biochemical signals.
- Continual growth and division despite contrary signals.
- Aversion to programmed cell death, resulting in cells that do not die off like normal cells.
- Limitless cell division sequences.
- The construction of additional blood vessels.
- Invasion of other tissues in order to metastasize, or move on to another part of the body.
The transformation from normal cells to cells that produce a noticeable mass and from those aberrant cells to cancer is a multi-step process referred to as “malignant progression.”
The only symptoms to clue others that a person may be suffering from cancer are unusual growths or bleeding. While the growths are an obvious concern, cancerous bleeding happens when the cells ulcerate, generating sores along the skin that signal the destruction of certain cells within the body. While other symptoms may also exist, these are highly dependent upon where the cancer has settled in. For example, lung cancer patients may exhibit symptoms of bronchitis or pneumonia. Ulceration can contribute to blood appearing in unusual ways such as when coughing, urinating or when discharging from the vagina.