Friday, November 05, 2010

Major Breakthroughs In Cancer Research May Lead To Improved Life Expectancy and Prevention

Scientists have long tried to figure out how and why cancer develops and they may have come across a cell that helps the cancer to survive. It contains some kind of mechanism that enables cancer cells to avoid being targeted by the immune system.
Despite repeated attempts to create a cancer vaccine, none has proved fully effective.

Now scientists at Cambridge University have discovered why.

A successful vaccine works by priming the body’s immune system to attack disease.

But the researchers have pinpointed a cell type in cancer victims that prevents the body’s immune system from killing tumours.

Mice which were bred without this cell were able to fight off cancer with their immune system.

The team say they now need to identify what this cell does to block the immune system and then see if they can halt this process without causing any other damage to the body. After that it should be possible to create a working vaccine.
They've got a long way to go before they can develop a vaccine, but this is a step in the right direction. Other researchers are focusing on perforin, a protein that is critical to cell development and maintenance.

At the same time, another team of scientists has found that a combination of drugs has a tremendous effect on reducing secondary melanomas (skin cancers). Still another team of scientists has found that use of spiral CT scans can improve detection (and hence survivability) for lung cancers. Early detection is key to survival rates as the more advanced a cancer is, the more likely it has metastasized and spread to other parts of the body.

It's one of the reasons that pancreatic cancer is so deadly - usually by the time a patient is symptomatic, there's not much that can be done. If scientists can find a way to test patients for symptoms of the disease, they could intervene much sooner and improve the odds of survival.

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