Trials to be conducted in Chennai and United States

A therapeutic vaccine against cancer could well be on the way. After successfully undergoing animal tests, it is all set to undergo human clinical trial in a few months.

The vaccine, developed by scientists at the National Institute of Immunology (NII) here, may prove to be a boon to those suffering from breast, ovarian, cervical, thyroid and blood cancer.

Anil Suri, who heads the team that has developed the vaccine, said it would be put to clinical trials at the Cancer Institute at Adyar in Chennai and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre in the U.S.

The trial at Sloan-Kettering would be conducted under an agreement signed between the NII and the National Cancer Institute under the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health.

Speaking to a group of journalists on the sidelines of an international conference on cancer research at the NII, Dr. Suri said the trial in Chennai would focus on cervical cancer, while that in the U.S. on ovarian cancer.

Scientific Director of the Cancer Institute in Chennai T. Rajkumar said the trial would be conducted on 18 patients with stage III cervical cancer. The institute had received one round of approval from its ethics committee, but wanted to have another clearance before applying for the green signal from the Drug Controller-General of India. The trial could start around March next.

The vaccine centres around a new cancer treatment modality called Dendritic cell therapy, in which a patient's own immune cells are used to fight cancer. These cells, which are a kind of immune cells, are present in the body in small quantity. The therapy involves taking out blood cells from the patient and processing them in the laboratory to produce the Dendritic cells in large quantities and with improved efficacy.

They will then be primed with an antigen called SPAG-9, discovered by the NII scientists and given back to the patients in the form of a vaccine.

This article has been corrected for a typographical error