Scientists have uncovered a protein which could trigger the body’s immune system in fighting prostate cancer tumours — raising hopes of a new vaccine to help combat the deadly disease.
Researchers at Nottingham Trent University have identified characteristics in a protein which may not only be able to stimulate the body’s own defences to attack tumour cells, but which could also help protect from established prostate tumours — bringing new hope to those with an advanced form of the disease.
Their study has focused on the protein called prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), which occurs in 90% of prostate tumours, and specifically dealt with using a part of PAP, called PAP 114.
From their research, scientists have developed a new prostate cancer vaccination strategy — which would be delivered to a patient through a series of injections — which appears to act against tumour growth, in pre-clinical testing carried out in laboratory conditions.
The scientists at the university’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre now believe their findings could lead to the development of new cost-effective vaccines which will stimulate a faster-acting and longer-lasting immune system response in those people suffering with the potentially lethal tumours.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of the disease in Irish men, with almost 3,000 cases diagnosed every year.
Dr Stephanie McArdle, lead researcher at the university’s cancer research centre, said: “Unfortunately for most cancers, the specific targets against which vaccination strategies can be based are sometimes weak and relatively poor at inducing robust, protective anti-tumour immune responses.
“Developing cancer vaccines that can overcome the capacity of tumours to ‘evade’ the immune system and induce protective anti-tumour immunity is therefore essential for the development of new immunotherapies for aggressive disease.
“Our findings demonstrate that PAP-114 is a promising candidate for further development of PAP-based anti-cancer vaccine strategies.
“It induces characteristics that are consistent with anti-tumour protection; capable of triggering an immune attack against prostate cancer cells and protecting against established prostate tumours.”
Prof Robert Rees, research centre director, said he hoped the work would now lead to a clinical trial.
“This pre-clinical study demonstrates the effectiveness of a peptide vaccine against PAP, a protein commonly expressed in prostate cancer, and is a prerequisite to a clinical trial.
“We are encouraged by the findings and would expect this to lead to a Phase 1 clinical trial in the near future.”
Prof Rees added: “It is vital that we develop new ways of treating patients and would hope that in the future men with advanced prostate cancer would be offered immunotherapy as a form of treatment.
“The same vaccine could also be used to treat patients in the early stages of disease, alongside other currently used treatments.”
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