Vaccine giving new hope in fight against cancer

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A cure for cancer may lie in a vaccine discovered by Stanford University researchers.

The university released details of a new study that wiped out cancer in mice using their own immune systems.

The latest research has led to human trials happening in Chicago and other major cities.

One Facebook post about a potential cancer vaccine was viewed over 50 million times. It is news cancer survivors and their loved ones worldwide have been waiting for.

Hematologist and oncologist Dr. Timothy Kuzel is assisting with trials on human patients at Rush University Medical Center.

"Over the last five to 10 years we've really developed some novel drugs and approaches that have really allowed us to unharness the immune system's ability to fight cancer," said Dr. Kuzel.

In the Stanford University study, researchers injected two immune-stimulating agents directly into tumors in mice. Not only did the therapy wipe out the tumors, it also eliminated all traces of cancer in the animals.

Immunotherapy, using a similar approach, is currently underway at Rush University Medical Center and many hospitals in major cities.

"Certainly if they're eligible, we'd like to get as many patients involved in these research trials as possible," said Dr. Timothy Kuzel, a hematologist and oncologist at Rush University.

On Facebook, people are sharing their success stories.

Kara writes, "I was a trial patient and received the vaccination for my Stage 3 melanoma. I was given two months to live. That was in 2006."

Janet was involved in a clinical trial with immunotherapy for melanoma "with over 30 tumors in my lungs." She says, "I was given three months to live. Now, 17 years later, I am still here."

"The important thing to realize with these drugs is unlike chemotherapy where we believe the drugs themselves target the cancer, immunotherapy works very differently,” Dr. Kuzel said. “These drugs are designed not to attack the cancer at all, but to stimulate the patient's own immune system and that immune system not only treats the tumors that are there today, hopefully, but it even prevents reoccurrences because your body maintains sort of a memory of that immune system."

The current immunotherapies fight best against melanoma and kidney cancer. But Dr. Kuzel says the prognosis for cancer patients today is filled with hope.

"If you took all cancer in total survivability is much better today than it was 10 years ago," Dr. Kuzel said.

To sign up for a human trial, the first step is getting a second opinion by a physician who is an expert in the type of cancer that's diagnosed. Most doctors at major medical facilities are aware of these trials. Cost is a concern in some cases. Some newer drug therapies can cost up to $10,000 a month.

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