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Pancreatic Cancer Vaccine Shows Early Promise

Researchers caution that more research is needed

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 24, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Prospects of a vaccine for pancreatic cancer appear to be inching closer to reality.

One of 10 people inoculated with a vaccine developed by researchers at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City remained cancer free after five years, the researchers say, and two others lived more than two years cancer-free.

Those are promising results, according to researcher Dr. Robert Maki, because the death rate for this type of cancer is so high -- 95 percent of those who have pancreatic cancer typically die within 15 months of diagnosis.

For each of the 10 participants in their study, Maki and his colleagues created a vaccine from a cell protein known as a heat-shock protein, taken from each person's own tumor. Surgeons removed the tumors, and the participants were vaccinated within eight weeks. None received chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

Maki explained the procedures in a report presented Sept. 22 at the European Cancer Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

However, he cautioned against too much optimism, saying the researchers don't know yet whether it will be possible to create a more universal vaccine, one that would work for all people with pancreatic cancer. Also, he said, the selection process for the study may have been biased: Only people who could have an operation and whose tumors had not spread were eligible to participate.

"Perhaps, just by chance, we got a few people who were destined to do well," Maki said in a written statement. He called for a larger, controlled study of the vaccine.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about pancreatic cancer.

SOURCE: European Cancer Conference, press release, Sept. 22, 2003
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