Why hopes are particularly high regarding trials of an experimental cancer vaccine which could help people suffering from mesothelioma.
It comes in a tiny tube little bigger than a knuckle but its impact on the lives of many cancer sufferers could be massive.
A possible vaccine which prompts the human body’s immune system to fight the mesothelioma strain of cancer is due to be tested on 26 people later this month. The results of the trials will be monitored by millions of mesothelioma sufferers worldwide.
Mesothelioma is a deadly form of lung cancer often associated with exposure to asbestos. It has no cure and methods of treating it only enjoy limited success.
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Research into the possible new vaccine – which is called TroVax - is being partly funded by the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund (JHMRF).
The ‘About Us’ section of the JHMRF website is written by famous playwright Alan Bennett. Alan’s childhood was connected with June Hancock’s in that both of them hail from Armley in Leeds; the writer’s father managed the butchers just above the J W Roberts factory.
The factory billowed out dust which led directly to the deaths of many local people from mesothelioma.
Despite dying of the disease herself, June Hancock took the multinational company which owned the factory to court and in a landmark victory won her case for compensation shortly before she died.
Today, the research fund set up in the Leeds’ lady’s name is delighted that new research into TroVax is being conducted by doctors in Cardiff and Oxford.
How TroVax works
The therapeutic cancer vaccine can be used by being injected into patients to trigger the body’s defence system to produce immune cells and antibodies which attack the cancer cells by targeting specific parts of the cell.
These new immune cells can then be treated in the laboratory and altered so that they target the harmful parts of the cancer cells even more effectively. Once treated, the defence cells and new antibodies can be injected back into the patient.
Great hope exists for TroVax because it targets the 5T4 protein found in most common cancer tumours. Significantly, the researchers testing the vaccine have recently found that 5T4 is present in mesothelioma - a discovery which bodes well for the trials.
Commenting on the trials, Dr Richard Harrop of Oxford Bio-Medica told ITV’s Meridian News: “There are still quite a few years of development left but yes, we are very excited.”
The motivation for being involved with drug trials can be great for those suffering with mesothelioma.
Former hospital consultant Andrew Lawson has lived with the disease for over four years. He has just gained a degree at Oxford University, an achievement he credits to taking part in unproven, experimental drug trials abroad. Without participating in these, he told Meridian News, “the only other option was being dead”.
While scientists and researchers look into treatments for diseases such as mesothelioma, others launch legal battles to prove that exposure to asbestos caused their illness.
As Alan Bennett says on the Mesothelioma Research Fund website: “Those of the calibre of June Hancock are heroes.”
Author: James Christie
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