A team of Welsh researchers has begun studying a promising new
immunotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. The researchers at Cardiff
University and the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff have partnered with
Oxford, England-based Oxford BioMedica to study the company's
immunotherapy cancer vaccine called TroVax. Like other immunotherapy
treatments, TroVax works by harnessing the power of the patient's own
immune system. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Zsuzsanna Tabi of
Cardiff University, recently discovered that mesothelioma tumor cells,
like many other cancer cells, express a protein called 5T4. TroVax works
by stimulating a patient's body to produce an anti-5T4 immune response
which would theoretically then target any tumor cells carrying the 5T4
Although TroVax has been shown to produce an immune response against
other types of cancer cells, a Phase III trial of the vaccine for renal
cancer was stopped when it was determined the drug would not improve
survival. The new study represents the first time TroVax has been
studied for mesothelioma. TroVax will be studied in combination with the
standard chemotherapeutic drugs for mesothelioma, Alimta and cisplatin.
Mesothelioma is caused by the mineral asbestos which was widely used in
the building industry and thousand of other industrial and consumer
products. Because it can take 30 to 50 years to develop, the number of
mesothelioma cases world-wide is still increasing. Two to three thousand
Americans and 2,000 UK residents are diagnosed with the disease every
year. New therapeutic agents are particularly important for
mesothelioma, because it is so aggressive and because there are so few
options now available to patients. Currently, most mesothelioma patients
are treated with a combination of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
Even with these treatments, the prognosis is modest and life expectancy
may be less than 18 months. Immunotherapy drugs like TroVax may offer
new hope for hard-to-cure cancers like mesothelioma. American biotech
company Dendreon recently became the first company to win FDA approval
for a cancer vaccine. They produce Provenge for prostate cancer.
The Cardiff teams hopes to begin recruiting mesothelioma patients to
participate in the TroVax trial later this year. The TroVax UK study is
being funded by the June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund.
Mesothelioma cancer patient resource with questions and answers about
mesothelioma, a deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
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