A potent new vaccine that could reverse or even cure malignant melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is on the anvil.
Skin cancer is now the most common cancer in the 15-34 age bracket and is linked to exposure to the sun on beach holidays and the use of tanning booths. It claims some 2,000 lives every year.
Lindy Durrant, professor in clinical oncology at the Nottingham University School of Molecular Medical Sciences, believes the new SCIB1 vaccine, which specifically targets tumour cells, could be successful in treating the disease.
The vaccine works by activating the body’s own natural defence systems - it contains DNA and genetic material from tumours.
It switches on the specific immune cells that target melanoma, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue untouched.
Incidences of malignant melanoma have more than quadrupled over the past 30 years and in the last 25 years, the rates of malignant melanoma have risen faster than for any other cancer.
“Till now, early diagnosis has been a crucial factor in the successful treatment of this disease. In the early stages, it can be cured by completely removing the skin melanoma by surgery,” Durrant said.
“However, in cases where it has not been picked up until further down the line, we have found that chemotherapy and radiotherapy simply do not work, although new compounds are being tested,” the researcher said.
“It is still at a very early stage, but if our results from the lab are replicated in patients, I think we have a good chance of dramatically improving the chances of successful treatment,” Durrant added.
Clinical trials for the SCIB1 vaccine are due to start shortly at Nottingham City Hospital and at centres in Manchester and Newcastle, a Nottingham University release said.
It will initially be given to patients suffering from advanced malignant melanoma which has spread to other parts of the body.