U of M cancer study could be chemo alternative

6:24 PM, Aug 18, 2011   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Dr. Chris Moertel, clinical director of the pediatric neuro-oncologoy program at the University of Minnesota has a big goal. He wants to cure brain cancer.

Moertel is leading a clinical trial using data researchers found three years ago with the help of a dog named Batman. The dog received a vaccine made from his own purified tumor cells. The vaccine trained Batman's immune system to attack its own tumor. He eventually recovered from the brain cancer but died last year from a heart condition. Researchers pushed on and are now testing the vaccine on people.

"What we've learned so far is that it's been safe in all the people we've treated. We started at a low dose and we've worked out way up to maximum dose of the vaccine," Moertel said.

The human vaccine was made with tumor cells from another cancer patient. It is being tested on seven patients from all over the nation. Moertel said so far none of the side-effects they were concerned about are showing up.

"We were very worried that exposing people to these brain tumors stem cell antigen might cause them to have an immune response against their normal brain cells or against other parts of their body and we've seen no evidence of that whatsoever," he said.

The clinical trial has a long way to go but Moertel said looking at MRIs give him hope. He said the cancer isn't gone for patients but with the vaccine it hasn't grown either.

Moertel said if successful the vaccine has the potential to be an alternative to chemo and radition therapy.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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