Research coming out of the University of Wisconsin could bring new hope to cancer patients previously left with limited options.

Multiple myeloma is a form of blood cancer that currently has no cure. It can be treated but the cancer will return – even with the most state-of-the-art treatment. The cancer targets plasma cells and then invades the bone marrow, where the cancerous plasma cells crowd out healthy blood cells. This in turn can lead to other serious health problems including kidney damage and increased likelihood of infection.

The research team, led by the university’s Carbone Cancer Centre but including another 14 cancer research centres, is hoping to change this by conducting the first large-scale trial of a ‘personalized vaccine’ to fight tumors.

The trial will use a patient’s own immune cells combined with their tumor cells to fight the cancer and stop it from recurring. Dr Natalie Callander, head of the trial at UW Carbone, said;

“We’re trying to train the immune system to be constantly surveying to identify and wipe out the re-emerging cancer cells.’’

The team will collect the cancer cells from participating patients and freeze them. Once the patient has undergone chemotherapy to reduce the cancer, their cancer cells will be fused with their own blood cells. The researchers hope that this will generate an immune response which can fight the tumor as quickly as it appears. Dr Callander added;

“This trial is taking personalized medicine to the next level, by making a vaccine from the patient’s own tumors.’’

For more details you can read Dr Callander’s full statement.