2 types of cancer that may soon have a vaccine

Early trials of a vaccine that targets a specific gene found in tumors, known as KRAS, has proven to be effective in 84% of patients who had pancreatic or colorectal cancers recur after their initial treatment, according to researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City who co-led the study.

Pancreatic and colorectal cancer, which are two of the leading causes of cancer deaths in the U.S., are also known to have few effective treatments when relapse occurs. The new vaccine could improve outcomes and survival rates, if results can be repeated in future studies.

Right now, the data, published Jan. 9 in Nature, is only from a phase 1 trial. Even though testing is early and was conducted using only 25 patients, the strong results are "exciting, because they show we may have more than one way to activate immune cells to target" these cancers, Eileen O'Reilly, MD, lead author of the study and a gastrointestinal oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering, said in a Feb. 2 news release.

"Having a vaccine that’s ‘off-the-shelf’ would make it easier, faster, and less expensive to treat a larger number of patients," she added.

But getting the vaccine to that "off-the-shelf" point, will take time. The vaccine must go through additional trials with larger numbers of patients for additional research.

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