My Journey with Prostate Cancer

Human trials to start for cancer vaccine that triggers the body to attack all tumors after injecting just one

  • Researchers at Stanford University are recruiting 15 lymphoma patients
  • They have shown their two-medicine shot can rid mice of even the furthest-spread tumors, with little-to-no side effects
  • By injecting one tumor, they claim, they trigger a body-wide reaction

A cancer vaccine that attacks tumors all over the body is entering human trials. A team at Stanford University – which developed one of the current most widely-used cancer treatments – claims that just one injection into one tumor triggers a full-body defensive response, attacking all other tumors that may have spread. The shot, a combination of two, actives the immune system to fight the cancer. After eliminating even the most distant spread of cancer in mice, the two lead authors are now recruiting lymphoma patients to try the shot in a clinical trial. Since the shot’s application is so localized, the researchers insist it is cost-effective and unlikely to cause adverse side effects often seen in other kinds of immune simulation.

The team at Stanford University – which made a widely-used chemotherapy – claims just one injection into one tumor triggers a full-body response, attacking all other tumors that may have spread. ‘When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,’ said lead author Ronald Levy, MD, professor of oncology, whose lab developed Rituximab, a widely-used form of chemotherapy. ‘This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.’ According to the team, the shot could work for many different types of cancer.

It holds a unique place in the field of immunotherapy

While some approaches stimulate the entire immune system, others target certain areas to block the cancer from straying, and others (like the newly-approved CAR T-cell therapy) removed immune cells from the body to genetically-engineer them. But all have caveats, be they arduous to prepare, lengthy to administer, or excruciating in their side effects. ‘All of these immunotherapy advances are changing medical practice,’ Levy said. ‘Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself. In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.’

The method works to reactivate the cancer-specific T cells by injecting microgram (a millionth of a gram) amounts of two agents directly into the tumor site. The first, a short stretch of DNA, works with nearby immune cells to heighten the expression of an activating receptor on the surface of the T cells. The second, an antibody that binds to the receptor, activates the T cells to attack the cancer cells. By injecting it direct into the tumor, it is specifically training T cells which already recognize cancer because they are already inside it. ‘This is a very targeted approach,’ Levy said. ‘Only the tumor that shares the protein targets displayed by the treated site is affected. We’re attacking specific targets without having to identify exactly what proteins the T cells are recognizing.’

For the trial, Levy plans to recruit 15 patients with low-grade lymphoma. If successful, Levy believes the treatment could be useful for many tumor types. Down the line, he believes oncologists could inject both into solid tumors in humans before surgery as a way to prevent recurrence from stray tumors that spread but weren’t detected. ‘I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system,’ Levy said.

By Mia De Graaf Health Editor For Dailymail.com

How a simple urine test can now help doctors spot signs of prostate cancer with 98 per cent accuracy

  • Scientists claim that the test could prevent 41 per cent of unnecessary biopsies
  • Symptoms of prostate cancer only tend to arise when tumour has grown large
  • Men become eligible for the test if they have been identified as being at risk

It is the most common form of cancer found in men in Britain, with 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year. And now doctors are able to spot signs of prostate cancer with a simple but highly accurate urine test to avoid unnecessary invasive biopsies. The test can detect two markers of the cancer found in urine – levels of which have shown to be eight times higher in men who have the disease.

Doctors are able to spot signs of prostate cancer with a simple but highly accurate urine test to avoid unnecessary invasive biopsies. Scientists claim it could prevent 41 per cent of unnecessary biopsies, and it is 98 per cent accurate in distinguishing men who do not have the disease from those who do. Researchers at the Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands reported that the test, known as SelectMDx, is more effective at detecting biomarkers of prostate cancer, than the current, commonly used blood test and biopsy combination. It is also capable of distinguishing between chemical markers of low grade, and potentially fatal, aggressive prostate cancer.

Every year in Britain, prostate cancer claims 10,000 lives. The disease is difficult to spot early, given that symptoms – pain when urinating and frequent, urgent trips to the lavatory – tend to arise only when the tumour has grown large enough to put pressure on the urethra. This is when men may first go to their GP with a problem.

There is no universal screening, but many men opt for a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate, and concentrations in the blood often increase if someone has prostate cancer. But there are other reasons why PSA levels may be raised, such as a benign growth or an infection or inflammation. And in some people with cancer, levels are not raised at all.

Scientists claim it could prevent 41 per cent of unnecessary biopsies, and it is 98 per cent accurate in distinguishing men who do not have the disease from those who do.
If high PSA levels are detected, men can be referred for a biopsy, during which up to 20 samples of tissue are taken from the prostate to be examined. But as biopsies sample only about one per cent of the gland, there is a 30 per cent chance that the cancer could be missed. Biopsies are also carried out with a needle, so carrying a small risk of infection afterwards.

‘The problem with the PSA test is that it is indicative only,’ says Dr Jan Groen, chief executive of Belgian-based developers MDxHealth. ‘The test we have developed is cancer-specific.’ Men become eligible for the urine test if they have been identified as being at risk of prostate cancer due to their PSA level. A doctor puts pressure on the gland, causing cancer cells to shed. A urine sample is collected immediately afterwards to test for the biomarkers.

The £225 test is now available privately in the UK through the Lab21 Clinical Laboratory.
Professor Raj Persad, consultant urologist at the North Bristol NHS Trust and Bristol Urology Associates, says: ‘The challenges in prostate-cancer diagnosis include finding a test which is accurate enough so that only patients with potentially significant disease go forward for biopsy. ‘If a non-invasive liquid biopsy can help minimise biopsies, this will be a great contribution. ‘If this new test is more accurate at picking up clinically significant cancers, it could be offered as a screening test for prostate cancer.’ He added: ‘This will need more rigorous clinical testing.’

By Roger Dobson for The Mail on Sunday

Movember and Beyond

This brings me to the end of my journey with regard to these blogs. My journey with prostate cancer will be carried on in one way or another for the rest of my life. Read more

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