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Promising New Developments in Cancer Research

The 2001 Joint Meetings of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) were held this week in Miami, Florida and included numerous presentations on promising cancer therapies. Two of the most prominent developments announced were a possible vaccine against melanoma and a "smart" drug that targets specific cancer cells.

To learn more about the vaccine, first read the article from Reuters, which discusses the compound, called HSPPC-96 or Oncophage, developed by Dr. Giorgio Parmiani and colleagues in Milan, Italy. The Oncophage vaccine is comprised of a specific class of proteins, known as heat shock proteins, that for each individual patient contain a unique profile of signals that are the cancer's "DNA fingerprint." This "DNA fingerprint" can then be used to re-program the patient's immune system to recognize, react against, and eliminate cancer while normal cells remain unaffected. This kind of precision was unheard of previously, and positive results have been reported from clinical trials dealing with kidney cancer, melanoma, and colorectal cancer. A press release from the American Association of Cancer Research's Website gives a slightly more technical overview that the one from Reuters. Antigenics, Inc., the drug company developing the vaccine, also has an informational page about Oncophage. For a much more technical summary, hit the abstract by Parmani et al. from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The other big development announced at the meetings by Dr. Jose Baselga of Barcelona, Spain, is the so-called "smart" cancer drug that specifically targets and blocks the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a protein that promotes tumor cell growth. This drug has shown promise in clinical trials for patients with non-small-cell lung, colorectal, pancreatic, and head and neck cancer. The Reuters article provides a good overview. Two competing drug companies are developing this "smart" drug -- ImClone, Inc. offers it as an injection called IMC-C225, while AstraZeneca has made a pill form called Iressa. AstraZeneca has an online press release. Visitors to the IMC-C225 informational page from ImClone can view a cool Shockwave animation of the drug intercepting the EGFR. More information on Iressa and IMC-C225 is found in the press release from the AACR and in a factsheet from, a UK-based cancer information service. To get caught up on all of the other research highlights of the 2001 joint meetings, visit the AACR Conference Abstracts page, searchable by author, keyword, or title.

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Date Issued 2001
Scout Publication
Date of Scout Publication 2001-11-02
Archived Scout Publication URL

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