November 25, 2004
Vaccine in Cancer Fight Approved for Clinical Trials
SHANGHAI: A vaccine developed by Chinese scientists to restrain or even kill cancer cells was recently approved for clinical research at Shanghai hospitals.
The cancer vaccine seeks to trigger the body's own immune system to detect and kill cancer cells. The vaccine would particularly target liver cancer, the deadliest of all cancers that can kill an end-stage patient within 12 weeks, according to biologists with the Shanghai Zhangjiang Biotech Research Centre.
"It has been patented in the United States and Australia," said a biologist with the centre.
This is the first cancer vaccine independently developed by Chinese scientists to be patented for use abroad.
The vaccine has been approved by State Food and Drug Administration for clinical tests at several hospitals in Shanghai.
Officials and patients are hopeful it will prolong cancer patients' lives by halting or even reversing tumor growth, said Professor Guo Yajun of the University of Nebraska in the United States.
Guo also heads the international tumor research institute of the No. 2 Medical University of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, which has worked on the vaccine in collaboration with a Shanghai- based laboratory on animal cell engineering.
Cancer vaccines fuse the patient's own cancer cells with a strain of antigens - or foreign - cells to produce a cancer-fighting reaction.
Clinical research conducted in several countries has proven such vaccines can halt tumor growth, prevent relapses and overcome the side-effects of chemotherapy and actinotheraphy.
Cancer has become the biggest killer of China's urban dwellers, according to Sun Yan, an expert with Beijing Cancer Hospital affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.
Ministry of Health statistics showed that the death rate from malignant tumors grew by almost 30 per cent between the 1970s and the 1990s. The nation registered some 2 million cancer patients in 2000, with around 1.5 million dying that same year.
Cancer prevention and treatment has become a global issue and has drawn the attention of health authorities worldwide, medical researchers and pharmaceutical producers.
Many world famous life science researchers and developers are co- operating with their Chinese counterparts in a bid to find the most effective anti-cancer medicines, said Sun.
Data from the State Food and Drug Administration indicated that sales of anti-cancer drugs reached US$1.2 billion last year and are expected to reach US$1.7 billion next year.
Chinese doctors have successfully integrated traditional Chinese medicine with modern Western medicines in the treatment of cancer and that has shown satisfactory results.
"Kanglaite," an anti-cancer drug developed by a traditional Chinese medicine research institute in East China's Zhejiang Province, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States for clinical tests there.