"This [vaccine] is a little unique," she said. "It may help restore drug sensitivity to tumor cells." Of the research, she said: "It's valuable research, potentially groundbreaking."
"What they are doing is providing a different kind of immune response," added Dr. Bill Chambers, scientific program director for the American Cancer Society. Often a vaccine works by directly stimulating the production of antibodies, which then attack what's perceived as a foreign invader. "Instead of inducing the production of antibodies, it induces the development of cells that directly kill the tumor," Chambers said. "It's a very useful observation."
Much more research is needed to determine if the findings will bear out and apply to humans, Liu said.
To learn more about cancer vaccines, visit the American Cancer Society.
SOURCES: Wei-Zen Wei, Ph.D., professor, immunology and microbiology, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Wayne State University, Detroit; Minetta Liu, M.D., assistant professor, medicine, and director, translational breast cancer research, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Bill Chambers, Ph.D., scientific program director, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Sept. 15, 2008, Cancer Research
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