UK scientists have been given the go-ahead to test a vaccine, which they believe, could be a potential weapon in the fight against malignant melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer.
Lead author Professor Lindy Durrant of Nottingham University, and colleagues hope that the new vaccine, which targets tumour cells without damaging healthy tissue, could reverse, and even cure malignant melanoma.
"Up until 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. 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," Professor Durrant said.
"It is still at a very early stage and impossible to predict the outcome of the clinical trial 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 - we are hoping that the vaccine will cure between 10 and 20 per cent of patients with malignant melanoma," Professor Durrant added.
Testing for the new SCIB1 vaccine has been given approval by the Gene Therapy Advisory Committee and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Clinical trials are due to start shortly at Nottingham City Hospital and centres in Manchester and Newcastle.
It will initially be given to patients who are suffering from advanced malignant melanoma, which has spread to other parts of the body.
The new vaccine works by activating the body's own natural defence systems - it contains DNA and genetic material from tumours meaning it 'switches' on the specific immune cells that target melanoma.