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New Treatment Trains Immune System To Kill Cancer

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the going-after-the-root dept.

Biotech 62

Al writes "A vaccine in clinical trials at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine triggers the human immune system to attack a faulty protein that's often abundant in colorectal cancer tissue and precancerous tissue. If it works as hoped, it could remove the need for repeated colonoscopies in patients at high risk for developing colorectal cancer. The vaccine has already proven safe in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. It works by spurring the body to manufacture antibodies against the abnormal version of a mucous protein called MUC1. While moderate amounts of the protein are found in the lining of normal intestines, high levels of a defective form of MUC1 are present in about half of advanced adenomas and the majority of colorectal cancers."

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Beware of the hype (5, Insightful)

Scubaraf (1146565) | more than 5 years ago | (#28846949)

While I laud this development - we have had multiple form of immune therapy for cancer - including tumor vaccines, cancer antigen vaccines, immunostimulatory drugs, and anti-tolerance drugs for years now. There are some responders, but this field has generally been a disappointment. here's to hoping we eventually figure out how to harness this approach.

Re:Beware of the hype (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#28846983)

Well the process of science is not a perfect one. We get leads we follow them and hit dead ends. Sometimes they get really close... Sometime you need to go back a few steps and retweek it sometimes you need to go to the starting board. I am sure any break-threw we find, there will be years of research that goes on, with plenty of failures.

Re:Beware of the hype (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28848615)

>>Well the process of science is not a perfect one.

HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE SCIENCE!?

Re:Beware of the hype (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28850477)

HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE SCIENCE!?

How very typical an attitude. Keep your closed mind.

Re:Beware of the hype (1)

Ginger Unicorn (952287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28850539)

wow, a troll replying to himself. how cheap.

Re:Beware of the hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28851263)

I am not replying to myself!
(No... really...)

Re:Beware of the hype (5, Insightful)

mldi (1598123) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847091)

While I laud this development - we have had multiple form of immune therapy for cancer - including tumor vaccines, cancer antigen vaccines, immunostimulatory drugs, and anti-tolerance drugs for years now. There are some responders, but this field has generally been a disappointment. here's to hoping we eventually figure out how to harness this approach.

Are we going to stop research? Research needs grants, and people don't give grants unless you publish papers showing how your research shows some promise. It may be baby steps in a thousand directions, but they all count, and it will eventually lead to something more productive.

Re:Beware of the hype (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28848865)

but they all count,

No actually, they don't.

Quite apart from the researchers who "accidentally" (ha!) do bad science because it's simply easier and to cater to moneyed interests such as drug companies there's been a rather large number of deliberate research scams detected and undetected over the years. This "research" is all negative.

Research is rife with scammers because there's lots of free money available and granting agencies are sometimes easy to fool. I've seen several scientifically incompetent third worlders use this as their entrée into the first world and a comfortable lifestyle.

Re:Beware of the hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28847749)

yeah, anyways, let's give credit where credit is due. This work was pioneered in a lab in edmonton alberta and is being tested at multiple universities around the world.

Canadian. Not American.

Re:Beware of the hype (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28847781)

yup, fucking Americans

Re:Beware of the hype (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848249)

That's pretty trivial, and if I were a Canadian researcher I might feel like you were patronizing me.

Re:Beware of the hype (3, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847967)

anti-tolerance drugs

Is that what religious/political extremists take to make them act the way they do?

Re:Beware of the hype (1)

ppanon (16583) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848743)

Nope. That's the natural sources that they used to detect and isolate the drug before determining the gene sequence for large scale bacterial production.

Re:Beware of the hype (3, Interesting)

physburn (1095481) | more than 5 years ago | (#28850151)

Yes, Immune Therapy has been tried for years, but that doesn't mean it will never amount to anything. It only means that its hard to get right. The first batch of Cancer, Immune Therapies are only now coming to market. One example is Provenge, for otherwise untreatable Prostate Cancer, by the Dendreon Corporation, its still awaiting FDA approval, in the first of its phase III trials, turned a 3 year survivial rate from around %20 to around %40, and added a mean 3 months of life. Thats hardly a cure all, but it is significant. If approved Provenge will probably be the first Cancer Immune Therapy on the market, likely leading to many of Vaccines for many other Tumors over the next ten or so years. (Drugs take that long or longer to market unfortunately).

---

Cancer Treatment [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Months of life (1)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28850843)

A little note about the "months of life" number reported for cancer treatments. It's usually small, like the three months you mentioned. But these treatments are also effective in only a fraction of patients, often on the order of one in four. So for the lucky person in whom the treatment works, that's actually a year of extra life.

If we could predict which treatments would work in which patients, rather than just trying every treatment for the cancerous body part, we would be talking about more substantial improvements and avoid wasting time and suffering subjecting non-responders to inappropriate treatments.

I'm living proof of an immune therapy treatment (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28851695)

I underwent the experimental treatment in 1994 at the age of 17- I had Melanoma that had metastasized to my lymph nodes. Each doctor I spoke with basically said I'd be dead.

You'll note the year- 1994- and it is now 2009. I'm celebrating my 15 year anniversary of having my 'face lift' and 7 hours of surgery to remove all of the cancer, salivary gland, neck muscles, and lymph nodes from the right half of my head. My wrestling career is over (it never got off the ground, hahaha!) but I'm alive.

Not only that, I've lived long enough to get married and have a daughter.

Was the treatment effective? Hard to say. I certainly reacted during the treatment- a couple of irradiated cancer cells and some crab blood had a MASSIVE reaction on my body- I could barely move the day after each injection. I was told that the treatment wasn't promising and that no further trials were done.

So, having been through it- I'll tell you that I believe it worked in my case. I also gained super human resistance to colds and flus afterwards for about 5 years.... unfortunately since my wife and I have had our little 'germ factory' I know now that I'm paying for that immunity with every cold I've gotten since.

(I did have one side effect- tooth pain. Excruciating, body numbing, on the floor curled up in fetal position tooth pain. Just give me the pliers already)

Re:I'm living proof of an immune therapy treatment (1)

Scubaraf (1146565) | more than 5 years ago | (#28853265)

Congrats! That's a great story - as an oncologist, I hang on to each one these I hear (my colleague likes to say that melanoma gives cancer a bad name). The treatment you went through almost certainly stimulated your immune system to fight your cancer. It is not clear if this is a specific effect, where you actually teach the immune system to attack your tumor, or simply a stimulatory effect that revs up the immune system to do a better job of attacking tumor cells that it already had some reaction to.

As you know, our only approved immune therapy for melanoma is interferon - a non-specific stimulator of immunity. There are few responders, but a small fraction (1-4%), are actually cured or disease free for years. The rest have little or no response and the side effects can be brutal or even fatal. The same goes for high dose interleukin-2 therapy for metastatic renal cell carcinoma - this treatment is usually started in an ICU setting.

The more specific cancer vaccines are always given with powerful adjuvants or co-stimulatory products. Provenge is a great example of this - some responders, but not clear what they are responding to. My Dad was in a clinical trial with a different prostate cancer vaccine and is a responder! In his case, he got the vaccine in highly immunogenic vectors - vaccinia (weak small pox, essentially) and fowlpox. This was followed by co-injection of GM-CSF - a chemotactic growth factor for a variety of antigen presenting cells. He isn't cured, but has stable disease. It's not clear if his immune system responded to the specific antigen in the vaccine or simply amplified whatever endogenous anti-tumor activity it already had brewing.

So - without bashing the achievement cited in the article - I suspect that this will not have anywhere near the impact the article claims. We certainly aren't going to be abandoning screening colonoscopy as the article suggests.

Re:I'm living proof of an immune therapy treatment (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28857043)

Oh no doubt at all- I was more throwing my support around continued testing and trials. There aint no easy cure- and anything easy and free is probably not worth it. I've got to believe nature would have already evolved a solution if it was 'easy'...

My body also walled off all the tumors and tissue that had been affected- so I may have already been primed to attack the cells.

Who knows.

Who wants.. (2, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847061)

... a Scoobie snack? Who's a good immune cell? Yes you are! You are!

Re:Who wants.. (1)

Anonymous CowHardon (1605679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847083)

Oops, it pooped on the carpet again.

Re:Who wants.. (2, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847119)

That really isn't fair. No one, whether man or his best friend, can resist a Scooby Snack(TM)

Re:Who wants.. (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847371)

What the hell is a scooby snack? I've seen them as hard snickerdoodles, commercial cookies and dog treats. Someone call the Mystery Gang.

This treatment... (2, Funny)

Noodles (39504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847077)

kicks ass!

Re:This treatment... (0)

Anonymous CowHardon (1605679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847131)

And planetary scientists are pleased by the renewed interest in ur anus.

Re:This treatment... (4, Funny)

sys.stdout.write (1551563) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847167)

I can't believe people have actually claimed that the quality of Slashdot comments has gone down in recent years.

How could you possibly claim that with gems like these?

Re:This treatment... (1)

Anonymous CowHardon (1605679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847197)

I know! It appears that some people just have their heads up their cancerous asses.

Re:This treatment... (0, Offtopic)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847217)

Gem quality coprolites. Wow.

please sign me up! (1)

unix_geek_512 (810627) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847225)

How does one participate in the study?

Re:please sign me up! (5, Informative)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847831)

You go here: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ [clinicaltrials.gov]

And find the trial you are interested in, and see if you meet the requirements.

In the case of this one:

http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00773097?term=colorectal+vaccine&rank=2 [clinicaltrials.gov]

Inclusion Criteria:

            Age 40 - 70 years of age.

                        History of any of the following conditions (operative notes, endoscopy reports, and/or pathology reports must be reviewed locally to confirm that the candidate meets at least one of the following entry criteria).
                              1. Colorectal adenoma(s) 1 cm in maximal diameter
                              2. Colorectal adenoma(s) with villous or tubulovillous histology
                              3. Colorectal adenoma(s) with high-grade dysplasia
                    o Willingness to avoid pregnancy or impregnate (see below) for the period of active study (1 year).
                    o ECOG performance status 0 or 1
                    o Hemoglobin greater than 95% of the lower limit of institutional normal. Platelets 100,000/L.
                    o AST (SGOT), ALT (SGPT), alkaline phosphatase, total bilirubin, BUN, creatinine 1.5x upper limit of institutional normal.
                    o ANA 1:160

Exclusion Criteria:

        * Receiving any other investigational agents.
        * Presence of an active acute or chronic infection
        * History of allergic reactions attributed to compounds of similar chemical or biologic composition to the study agents.
        * History of heritable cancer syndrome (FAP, HNPCC)
        * Patients with a history of auto-immune disease such as, but not restricted to, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, scleroderma, or multiple sclerosis.
        * History of malignancy 5 years prior to the Registration/Randomization evaluation, excluding non-melanoma skin cancer.
        * Any use of oral corticosteroids 12 weeks prior to Registration/Randomization.
        * Current or planned use of immunomodulators including: Remicade, 6-MP (Mercaptopurine), Methotrexate, cyclosporine, or other immunomodulatory drugs.
        * Pregnant women, because the teratogenic or abortifacient effects of the study agents remain incompletely defined. Breastfeeding women, because there is an unknown but potential risk for adverse events in nursing infants secondary to treatment of the mother with the study agents.

Still no cure for... (2, Funny)

BlueBoxSW.com (745855) | more than 5 years ago | (#28847387)

Oh, wait. Never mind.

Max Gerson's cancer therapy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28848171)

Go and google the gerson therapy diet for curing cancer. There's a whole documentary on it called "The Gerson Miracle." It will blow your mind.

If it walks like a duck... (3, Insightful)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848753)

Right. A revolutionary diet therapy. Someone trying to cure cancer by non-medicinal means. So he is practising medicine without being a doctor? There is a name for that: quack. And people like you that (pretend to) believe in it and preach its blessings are instrumental for mr Gersons paycheck.
There is a very good reason alternative medicine is not accepted: it does not work. If you want it to be accepted medically; do the legwork and prove that it works in reproducible double blind tests. If you just want to make a living deceiving other people, you post references on the internets.

Re:If it walks like a duck... (2, Interesting)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#28852225)

A revolutionary diet therapy. Someone trying to cure cancer by non-medicinal means.

How is diet a "non-medicinal means"? Does your definition of "medicine" extend only to synthetic drugs?

There is a very good reason alternative medicine is not accepted: it does not work. If you want it to be accepted medically; do the legwork and prove that it works in reproducible double blind tests.

So surgery is not medicine, then? There are zero blinded tests -- let alone double blind tests -- demonstrating the effectiveness of surgery. In fact, in every case where a surgical procedure has been tested against a placebo operation [google.com] , the surgery has been no more effective than the placebo.

Very, very little of mainstream modern medicine has been demonstrated to be more effective than placebo treatments in any sort of controlled study. Medicine likes to wear science's costume, but for the most part, it's faking it.

Randomized trials in surgery (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28855779)

There are zero blinded tests -- let alone double blind tests -- demonstrating the effectiveness of surgery.

I call bullshit. Here's one:
http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00042081 [clinicaltrials.gov]
Prevention of Autogenous Vein Graft Failure in Coronary Artery Bypass Procedures
Study Design: Prevention, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Control, Single Group Assignment, Safety/Efficacy Study
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00042081

Try Googling randomized controlled trial surgery [google.com]

in every case where a surgical procedure has been tested against a placebo operation [google.com] , the surgery has been no more effective than the placebo.

The term surgeons use is not "placebo" but "sham surgery" [google.com] .

They use sham surgery when they can, but they can't use sham surgery that would be unreasonably harmful to the patient. It may be OK to thread a catheter into somebody's coronary arteries and squirt saline, but nobody is going to ask a patient to undergo abdominal or chest surgery, with a mortality of 1% or even 0.1%, just to satisfy somebody's idea of a perfect scientific design.

1-sentence course in medical ethics: A doctor can't do anything to a patient that wouldn't benefit the patient.

The days of using prisoners, negroes, Jews, Chinese and Puerto Ricans as experimental subjects are long gone.

There's been a lot of progress towards evidence-based medicine in the last generation of surgeons. Most surgeons put their patients' welfare first, understand science better than most people on Slashdot, and spend a lot of effort figuring out what the scientific evidence is for alternative procedures. I've seen them in some gloves-off debates at surgery conferences. Of course there are surgeons who are out first to make a buck, but that's the price of a free market.

I don't know where you get your facts from. At least go to Wikipedia.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28857609)

nobody is going to ask a patient to undergo abdominal or chest surgery, with a mortality of 1% or even 0.1%, just to satisfy somebody's idea of a perfect scientific design

That's why they do tests on animals first. If the animal dies, they don't test on people. If n% of the animals don't get better, they still don't test on people. Only after it's been shown to be safe and effective in animal trials do they test on people.

Say you're testing a new IOL for cataract surgery. You don't test against a placebo, you test against standard surgery.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28860915)

Say you're testing a new IOL for cataract surgery. You don't test against a placebo, you test against standard surgery.

That's right. And here's another one: Suppose you want to test standard treatment (medication) against surgery. You have to find doctors -- and patients -- who honestly can't figure out which one is better. If you have a doctor who thinks surgery is better, he can't be in the trial, because he's ethically obligated to perform surgery. (At least in England; that's the way they explain it in The Lancet.)

Talking about IOL, BTW, a few years ago, Brazil used to be the wild west of ophthalmological surgery. They did surgery on humans in Brazil when they were still doing it on rabbits in the U.S.

Although Germany has some "aggressive" surgeons too. They did a trial of (I think) infusing heart muscle stem cells into the heart to treat myocardial infarction.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28880481)

They did surgery on humans in Brazil when they were still doing it on rabbits in the U.S.

Jesus, that gave me cold chills. I underwent a vitrectomy [slashdot.org] last year, and it was not pleasant*. It made cataract surgery seem like a walk in the park, but I bet it was less unpleasant then the older treatment for a detached retina, the scleral buckle.

When I got my IOL in 1976, I hesitated getting the new variable-focus lens because it had only been FDA approved in 2003. I still worry that one day one of its struts will break and I'll have to have surgery again.

*One slashdotter asked that when I link that particular journal to warn readers that it's not for the faint of heart. Especially be wary about visiting the wikipedia article linked from it.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

nbauman (624611) | more than 5 years ago | (#28883187)

Actually I have a book that had lots of great pictures of vitreous retinal surgery. I thought it was pretty cool the way they stick all those tubes in your eye, suck out the old vitreous, and squirt in the new vitreous. They have a whole toolbox of these tiny tools, like scissors, that they can stick in through the tubes. Those ophthalmologists, they can get anything they want -- lasers, video, operating microscopes, you name it. Anything to save the retina, I always say. The amazing thing is that they can stick all those things in your eye, even the cornea, and it heals up pretty well. But not the retina. I once dissected a cow's eye, and saw the retina. It's thinner than a cobweb.

You're lucky you're having that surgery now, instead of 20 years ago. The complication rates really went down. They used to have 1% infection, now it's 0.1% or 0.01%.

You really should be careful about vigorous sex right after retinal surgery. Maybe you should try bondage for a while until it heals. And definitely no roller coasters (even without sex).

That IOP is your intraocular pressure, in millimeters of mercury. 30 is pretty high. I think it should be 18 or so (I forget exactly). Make sure you smoke your marijuana regularly to get it down.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28901471)

You really should be careful about vigorous sex right after retinal surgery. Maybe you should try bondage for a while until it heals. And definitely no roller coasters (even without sex).

Actually, Dr. Odin warned me about that. It was a year and a few months ago, so it's pretty well healed. I don't see him again until next year.

I was lucky to have the cataract surgery in 2006 instead of 2000, I got the new variable focus lens that came out in 2003. I'm 57 and don't need any corrective lenses at all, not even reading glasses. And after the vitrectomy last year I don't even have floaters in that eye.

The doctor said (I asked) that IOP varied, and anything between 10 and 20 was normal, outside those parameters was dangerous. After surgery I saw him about every two weeks for a while, and the IOP in my eye varied from 11 to 18. Except for right after the surgery (when my eye was filled with nitrogen gas) was when it was 30 and he prescribed the big orange expensive pills.

Oh, and they don't squirt in new vitreous, they replace the vitreous with nitrogen. Your eye itself replaces the vitreous as the nitrogen is absorbed into the bloodstream. You have to keep your head straight down while the bubble is in it, as its bouyancy is what pushes the retina back into place.

Re:Randomized trials in surgery (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861101)

I call bullshit. Here's one: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00042081 [clinicaltrials.gov] Prevention of Autogenous Vein Graft Failure in Coronary Artery Bypass Procedures

This study -- which was actually of a drug used to treat tissue before transplantation, rather than of a surgical technique -- found that "Failure of at least 1 vein graft is quite common within 12 to 18 months after CABG surgery. Edifoligide is no more effective than placebo in preventing these events. Longer-term follow-up and additional research are needed to determine whether edifoligide has delayed beneficial effects, to understand the mechanisms and clinical consequences of vein graft failure, and to improve the durability of CABG surgery." [nih.gov]

I was excited that you might have found a surgical technique that meets the placebo-controlled blinded test standard, now I'm disappointed. You really ought to read a study's findings before you cite it.

Try Googling randomized controlled trial surgery

Following your link I find studies where the "control" is drug therapy or another medical intervention. If you have one where surgery is compared versus a sham procedure, please, point it out to me -- perhaps there's one mentioned in a study behind a paywall.

It's no good to have a study find that "surgery X is better than drug Y" -- maybe the benefits were due to a few days of enforced rest, skilled nursing care, and hospital food, not to mention that nebulous "placebo effect" [unreasonable.org] , or even a side-effect of general anesthesia, rather than due to the actual cutting and sewing of flesh.

The term surgeons use is not "placebo" but "sham surgery".

Sham surgery is a form of placebo.

It may be OK to thread a catheter into somebody's coronary arteries and squirt saline, but nobody is going to ask a patient to undergo abdominal or chest surgery, with a mortality of 1% or even 0.1%, just to satisfy somebody's idea of a perfect scientific design.

But sham thoracic and cranial surgery has been performed. The first, and most famous, use of a placebo surgical technique as a control was to investigate mammary artery ligation for relief of angina pectoris [google.com] . And tests of transplantation of human embryonic dopamine neurons [scienceagogo.com] and of fetal pig cells [google.com] into the brains Parkinson's patients, were also compared to sham techniques. In all three of these cases, the "real" operation was no more effective than the placebo.

We can add to that a test of arthroscopic surgery for knee arthritis [www.cbc.ca] which failed to show any benefit of a real surgery over a fake cut.

So again, I ask: if anyone has an example of a placebo-controlled trail of a surgical technique where the real technique proved more effective that the placebo, please post it.

1-sentence course in medical ethics: A doctor can't do anything to a patient that wouldn't benefit the patient.

The fact that it's difficult to test a hypothesis doesn't mean you get to skip ahead to the conclusion that it's valid. You can't rationally say, "you herbalists and massage therapists and acupuncturists and chiropractors have to meet this gold standard of a placebo-controlled blinded test -- regardless of how difficult it may be -- but you surgeons get a pass because it would be too hard for you, and besides you wear ties and play golf while those `alternative' healthcare people smell like patchouli."

Most surgeons put their patients' welfare first, understand science better than most people on Slashdot, and spend a lot of effort figuring out what the scientific evidence is for alternative procedures.

Physicians are skilled technicians; many have little or no scientific training. Some may indeed spend a lot of effort figuring out what the scientific evidence is for various techniques, but that doesn't change the fact that for most surgical procedures -- perhaps, for all -- the evidence does not include placebo-controlled blinded studies.

I'm not saying surgeons are at all bad people -- but when all you have is a scalpel, everyone looks like a surgical candidate. In the absence of high-quality evidence, surgery (and drugs, where often the evidence is not at all as strong as big pharma would like you to think) ought to be regarded with a healthy skepticism.

Re:If it walks like a duck... (1)

yabos (719499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28854793)

Diet is a HUGE cause of some cancers. Shit in = shit body. Take for example broccoli which has been shown to reduce risk of colon cancer(look for it I'm not doing the work for you). While I don't know if you can completely cure anything by diet alone when it's progressed to a late stage, there are many things you can do to help prevent bad cells from multiplying and causing cancer.

Natural Selection (3, Interesting)

minorgroove (1278070) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848179)

Won't this only provide selective pressure for those mutant cells to make another variant of Mucin1? That is exactly how aggressive cancers form in the first place.

Re:Natural Selection (2, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848309)

It's a vaccine, so any cells presenting modified MUC1 will hopefully be killed before they proliferate very often and can learn to make yet another form of muc1. That said, the article does point out not all colon cancer cells express the mutant form, so it probably won't completely prevent colon cancer, but if it works maybe it could prevent most of them from occurring.

Maybe the reason they're talking about vaccine instead of treatment is because they do find that if they target the mutant form, there is enough of a population that some cells don't express it and the cancer comes back quickly. That time might be enough though. I've heard that one treatment for gliomas, a very fast cancer, is to inject radioactively-tagged antibodies to cancer-specific proteins, the idea being that the antibodies stick to the cancer cells and kill some of them. I've heard that while it won't kill all the cancerous cells, it can kill enough of them to extend your life from a matter of weeks to a matter of months. Might not sound like much, but the patients and their families often appreciate it I'm sure.

Re:Natural Selection (1, Informative)

nietsch (112711) | more than 5 years ago | (#28849331)

Yes is does provide selective pressure, just like the immune system does by itself. The pressure is against overexpressing MUC1. Since it is presented as a vaccine, not a therapy, the thinking is that there are no cells yet that overexpress MUC1. Once one does, it will be quickly eliminated. Since it is quick growing cells (like cancer) that mutate at a higher rate, picking off the cells with cancerous signs will reduce this mutation rate, thus hopefully prevent this type of cancer in the lifetime of the (potential) patient.
You are right in assuming that the chance of a mutation in patients that already have cancer would be much higher, making it less effective as a treatment. But who knows, maybe it works good enough as a combination therapy?

Re:Natural Selection (2, Informative)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28852491)

Cancer doesn't have a global evolution process like bacteria. Even if a particular person's cancer does express another variant of Muc1, that genetic quirk dies with the patient.

Re:Natural Selection (1)

minorgroove (1278070) | more than 5 years ago | (#28857469)

It's not about global evolution as about treatment effectiveness. If your target protein is rapidly mutating, then selecting against it is likely to either down-regulate that protein or select for other mutations where the antibody binds to reduce binding. Supposing that only 1 in 100,000 cells survive due to that mutation, then you could say that it is still 99.999% effective. But the one surviving cell would be the mutant that proliferates and returns months to years later. It costs millions to develop these treatments and get them through clinical trials. Having it only work some of the time just doesn't seem good enough.

Re:Natural Selection (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28861271)

The mutation isn't all that rapid. No cancer treatment is 100%.

No chemo kills 100% of the cancer cells, just enough of them that hopefully the immune system can get back on top of it and finish them off. If you could knock a cancer back to 1 in 100,000, it's likely a cure unless there's a serious immune system failure.

Bacteria have a much less stable genome than even cancer cells and can even exchange plasmids with other bacteria while infecting you.

I hate these "We've cured cancer!" headlines (2, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | more than 5 years ago | (#28848547)

Disclaimer: My wife is a therapeutic radiographer. She treats cancer patients all day long. What I've posted here is what I understand from her, which may be completely wrong because I'm not qualified to understand everything she says.

If you were to believe the press, a cure for cancer is found on average 2-4 times a year. Except it isn't, for a number of reasons:

1. The "cure" is usually in the early stages of trials. Sometimes it hasn't even been taken out of the test tube and put into any living creature. (This is one of the better articles in that respect - it seems like the initial clinical trials to test whether or not it'll do any harm in humans have been passed)

2. There's no such thing as a generic cure for cancer because there's no such thing as a generic cancer. There are dozens, if not hundreds of different types. Some tend to grow very quickly, others more slowly. Some tend to spread to other parts of the body, others don't. Some we know the main causes of, others we have no idea. Some are easy to treat and have a high success rate, others rather less so.

This is good news because by and large the cancers which are easy to detect (and therefore tend to get treated early) are the ones which are fairly easy for a lay person to spot something wrong - think skin, breast, testicle. Cancers of internal organs which are able to function for some time with little noticeable impairment (eg. liver) are far more likely to be detected too late.

Hence a more effective treatment for something like bowel cancer is definitely a Very Good Thing.

Re:I hate these "We've cured cancer!" headlines (2, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#28849575)

Of course she'll say that. If we find medical cures for cancer, she'll be out of a job, won't she?

Re:I hate these "We've cured cancer!" headlines (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28857461)

Of course she'll say that. If we find medical cures for cancer, she'll be out of a job, won't she?

About fifteen years ago I was in an auto accident, and looking at the X-ray the radiologist noticed that I had arthritis in my spins. I asked him when the medical community was going to get around to finding a cure for arthritis.

"We don't do cures, we do treatments. There's no money in cures."

Cures for cancer (1)

AlpineR (32307) | more than 5 years ago | (#28851131)

This article is one of the most accurate reports on cancer treatment I've seen. Even the Slashdot title and summary avoid suggesting it's a cure for all cancers. They're very clear that it's a vaccine for colon cancer to prevent progression to cancer in people already at high risk.

There are lots of immunotherapies at various stages of development and testing. I'm considering one myself for a colon cancer that escaped my colon long ago. I wouldn't have been a candidate for this Pittsburgh MUC1 trial since my cancer developed without warning or risk factors. But, as the article mentioned, there are many trials trying to treat established tumors by training the immune system to recognize abnormal proteins on the cancer cells.

The trial I'm applying for is scary as feck. They collect immune cells from your bloodstream, genetically engineer them to recognize the target protein, and culture them up to large numbers. Meanwhile they knock out your immune system with poisons so the modified cells will survive and hopefully reproduce without competition or attacks from your normal immune cells. Then, hopefully, the modified cells attack the cancer cells and your general immune function also returns before a common bug runs amok and kills you. Not fun, but probably my best remaining option if my present course of radiation therapy doesn't do the trick.

They've had some success with a similar treatment for skin cancer, but they're just starting to try it on colon cancer and have no idea how safe or effective it will be. So don't be surprised that these cures seems just around the corner, year after year. Medical science is some of the messiest, slowest, costliest, and riskiest technology known to man.

Re:I hate these "We've cured cancer!" headlines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28861695)

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest (if not the worst) cancer of all.
Reason being -- is that in 80% of the cases it is detected while already spread.
And since it is spread, only chemotherapy is available for treatment and there is no
known chemotherapy agent that has any noteable rate of success

So in the case of pancreatic cancer, it actually spreads before it grows enough to be visible.
So the only possible way to detect is by looking at various indicators.

They have not been proven to be universally applicable and are different in different patients.
There are probably subsets of patients for which some of the indicators can work.
The aggressive form is the one that Patric Swazey has.

There are also slow growing islet cell pancreatic cancer (this is the one Steve Jobs has)
those cancer cells are not from the head of the pancreas and work very differently than the
aggressive form.

I wish there was more research that I could apply when my Dad was diagnosed with it.
For him, and for people like him -- anything that could have at least some chance of
succeeding would be a thing to try (unfortunately chemotherapy treatment being a poison cannot be 'tried' too much unlike immune therapies)

BLAH BLAH Cures HA! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28850447)

So what if it's in clinical trials.... You actually think a pharmaceutical company will release a drug like this?
that could potientially "cure" cancer or be a step toward curing?

They will just buy it for millions from the Tech who made it and keep it in their vault like every other "Cure" drug they have.

The amount of money they will lose from selling 1 drug that will cure 1 disease will cripple their company. Right now for that disease I bet there are 5-10 drugs given out to 1 person which is $$$ in the bank.

and remember:

C.R.E.A.M (Cash rules everything around me)

what was the last cure that came out?

Re:BLAH BLAH Cures HA! (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 5 years ago | (#28851481)

Depends on what you mean by "cure"... if by cure you mean something that protects against it forever, then while I'd think that's more of an immunity thing than a cure, I'd agree that it's probably been a while... at least with regards to one being commonly available. If, however, you assume that curing simply means to purge an illness out of a person who is suffering from it, or at least weaken it to the point that their own immune system can manage whatever is left, then cures can and most certainly do happen all the time.

Re:BLAH BLAH Cures HA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28859813)

If, however, you assume that curing simply means to purge an illness out of a person who is suffering from it, or at least weaken it to the point that their own immune system can manage whatever is left, then cures can and most certainly do happen all the time.

So from your definition, can you tell me what is the cure to diabetes and high blood pressure?

How can it be vaporware...? (1)

rubmytummy (677080) | more than 5 years ago | (#28850575)

if it's in clinical trials? Maybe it won't pan out, but it is a physical product.

What's right & wrong about US medicine (1)

cosanostradamus (1553391) | more than 5 years ago | (#28850611)

. We can do stuff like this, but we can't -or won't- guarantee healthcare for all. [blogspot.com] Sick. .

Great now we are all Vampires! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28851335)

Hey wait I saw this movie with Will Smith! Isn't this how "I am Legend" starts?

bowel disease (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28851929)

I'm no expert, but wouldn't prompting the immune system to attack the lining of the intestine basically be intentionally-induced inflammatory bowel disease? IBD increases the risk of colon cancer...

Re:bowel disease (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28859555)

Absolutely. This "cure" is nonsense. The slashdot summary directly states "moderate amounts of the protein are found in the lining of normal intestines". It would be insane to increase the immune response for this protein. Over-active or inappropriate immune response is the cause of many many human diseases. See the following article:

Multiple changes in sialic acid biology during human evolution
http://cmm.ucsd.edu/varki/varkilab/B131.pdf [ucsd.edu]

"Additionally, metabolic incorporation of Neu5Gc
from animal-derived materials occurs into biotherapeutic
molecules and cellular preparations - and into human
tissues from dietary sources, particularly red meat and milk
products. As humans also have varying and sometime high
levels of circulating anti-Neu5Gc antibodies, there are
implications for biotechnology products, and for some
human diseases associated with chronic inflammation."

"A third possibility is that
the ability of CMAH null individuals to generate anti-Neu5Gc
antibodies (see below) protected them from enveloped
viruses that originated from individuals with intact Neu5Gc
expression--as is postulated to occur with other glycan
variations associated with circulating antibodies [1, 40]."

"Another consequence of the loss of Neu5Gc is that it
became a foreign antigen. This is of potential significance
because of evidence that bound or free Neu5Gc from
extracellular fluids can get incorporated into human cells,
both in tissue culture [57, 58], and into the intact body (the
latter from dietary sources) [57], and because all humans
express varying levels of antibodies against glycans
terminating in Neu5Gc [57, 59, 60]."

"Taken together, all these data are consistent with the
hypothesis that human T cells are prone to hyper-reactivity,
perhaps explaining the human propensity for diseases
associated with excessive T cell responses, such as
rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other autoimmune disor-
ders [94-96]."

"In this regard, a human volunteer study
confirmed that orally ingested Neu5Gc is indeed taken up
into the human body [57]. The limited survey of foods that
has been done so far indicates that the richest source of
Neu5Gc involves red meats (lamb, pork, and beef), with
bovine milk products containing significant amounts. Thus
we have hypothesized that the long-term dietary intake of
Neu5Gc with incorporation into endothelium and epitheli-
um could combine with the circulating anti-Neu5Gc anti-
bodies (see below), to stimulate chronic inflammation [10]."

"As noted above, earlier literature had
also reported more easily detectable anti-Neu5Gc anti-
bodies in patients with cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, infec-
tious mononucleosis and other diseases."

"The major dietary sources of Neu5Gc appear to be foods of
mammalian origin, and major sites of accumulation
(endothelia of blood vessels and epithelial cells lining
hollow organs) [57], happen to also be the sites of diseases
that seem to preferentially occur in humans, i.e. large-vessel
occluding atherosclerosis and carcinomas of epithelial
origin."

"Interestingly, the
Cmah null mice also showed a definite human-like delay in
wound healing [108]."

BS

Re:bowel disease (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#28871021)

That's an amazing paper. It suggests that milk and red meat consumption is to blame for inflammatory diseases!

Considering this, you can count me as a mostly-vegetarian from now on. I don't want arthritis like my Grandma has!

Wasn't this in the plot of "I am Legend"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28859431)

Oh not to mention it took place in the Fall of 2009... Well I guess we better get used to zombie vampires without cancer!

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