New cancer medicine starves tumours

Swedish researchers have developed a new cancer DNA vaccine which restricts the supply of blood to tumours.

The research results, published in the medical journal Oncogene, indicate success in delaying the growth of breast cancer tumours in mice, Karolinska Institute writes in a statement.

“Our hope is that in the future this vaccine can be used to prevent relapses of breast cancer after surgery,” said Kristian Pietras, who led the study at the institute, in the statement.

If a cancer tumour is to become larger than a few millimetres it must be able to stimulate the formation of new blood vessels, in order to secure the supply of oxygen and nutrients.

“Drugs that prevent the growth of blood vessels are thus a potential treatment alternative for tumours,” Pietras said.

The blocking of the Delta-like ligand 4 (DLL4) protein there is a large increase in the formation of new, but non-functional, blood vessels, and this leads to the tumour growing more slowly.

According to the study the vaccine did not affect the animal’s ability to heal and it left no side-effects. The researchers hope that the vaccine could be used to treat other cancers.

“We have worked with breast cancer tumours since they often express high levels of DLL4, while normal breast tissue does not. We hope that it will be possible to use this vaccine to prevent recurrence of breast cancer after surgical treatment,” Kristian Pietras said.

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