We'll Have to Backtrack without Financial Help; Research in Birmingham Is Leading towards Better Diagnostics, New Cancer Therapies and, Ultimately, Cures. but Professor Lawrence Young Told Health Reporter That, without a New Cancer Plan, Patients May Never Benefit Cancer 2020

The Birmingham Post (England), September 19, 2006 | Go to article overview

We'll Have to Backtrack without Financial Help; Research in Birmingham Is Leading towards Better Diagnostics, New Cancer Therapies and, Ultimately, Cures. but Professor Lawrence Young Told Health Reporter That, without a New Cancer Plan, Patients May Never Benefit Cancer 2020


Byline: Emma Brady

A cure for cancer is the Holy Grail of medical research. Around the world thousands of scientists and clinicians are tirelessly pursuing that goal.

It is a pursuit that takes time and money, but what price can be put on life?

While a definitive cure has yet to be found, researchers at the Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies in Birmingham are working on a number of exciting possibilities.

Professor Lawrence Young, head of the facility based at Birmingham University, explained how future treatments could involve "educating" blood cells, "bespoke" gene therapies, and cancer-seeking enzymes.

He said: "One agent is not going to be the solution to cancer therapy, that's something we've learned after 30-plus years of research.

"We're now able to put all that knowledge and understanding into new drugs, better diagnostic approaches, and how to prevent some cancers. Also, used in the right way, existing drugs may be used with new treatments to provide even better results.

"For example, we've known for years that when you develop cancer the body tries to destroy it as if it's a virus or bug. Now there's a possibility immunology may be used to prevent cancer as well as successfully treat it."

One study on patients with advanced melanoma - a type of skin cancer - looking at how to "programme" certain blood cells to target cancerous tissue has produced some exciting results. A female patient, whose melanoma had spread through her body, has been free of cancer after receiving 16 cycles of this trial treatment, called an atologus tumour vaccine.

Prof Young said: "Melanoma is a very difficult cancer to treat as it does not respond well to chemotherapy

"But we've been working on a vaccine where cells taken from a patient's blood are 'educated' to mount an effective response against the cancer, once it has been injected back into the body.

"The idea would be to move this into an earlier treatment, which could work in breast, prostate, ovarian and liver cancers. There will come a time when this could be used to prevent these cancers, perhaps as a vaccine."

In another trial, researchers have engineered a virus from a bacteria gene to create an enzyme that can turn a harmless pro-drug into a cancer-seeking drug. …

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We'll Have to Backtrack without Financial Help; Research in Birmingham Is Leading towards Better Diagnostics, New Cancer Therapies and, Ultimately, Cures. but Professor Lawrence Young Told Health Reporter That, without a New Cancer Plan, Patients May Never Benefit Cancer 2020
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