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Cancer Vaccines with Potential


When Dendreon came out with its prostate cancer vaccine Provenge, researchers jumped on the vaccine bandwagon and Wall Street salivated at the thought of the billions of dollars it was going to make, says Robert Langreth at the Forbes Treatments blog. But the complicated preparation for the treatment and the $93,000 price tag — not to mention confusion over how it works since it extends life without slowing tumor growth — have caused big pharmaceutical companies to shy away from trying to develop a vaccine of their own, Langreth adds. However, says Martin Cheever, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, there are two lung cancer vaccines in development that could cement the future of these controversial treatments. Both vaccines target lung cancer, Langreth says — one from GlaxoSmithKline uses a protein called MAGE-A3, which is found on lung cancer cells; and one from Seattle biotech Oncothyreon called Stimuvax, which aims to stimulate a patient's immune system to attack the MUC-1 protein fragment found in several kinds of cancer, including lung. Cheever says Glaxo's vaccine is "one of the best." In second-stage lung cancer patients who had their tumors surgically removed, the vaccine cut the risk of relapse after 28 months by 27 percent, Langreth says. Trials of Stimuvax also show trends towards higher survival rates, he adds.

The Scan

Driving Malaria-Carrying Mosquitoes Down

Researchers from the UK and Italy have tested a gene drive for mosquitoes to limit the spread of malaria, NPR reports.

Office Space to Lab Space

The New York Times writes that some empty office spaces are transforming into lab spaces.

Prion Pause to Investigate

Science reports that a moratorium on prion research has been imposed at French public research institutions.

Genome Research Papers on Gut Microbe Antibiotic Response, Single-Cell RNA-Seq Clues to Metabolism, More

In Genome Research this week: gut microbial response to antibiotic treatment, approach to gauge metabolic features from single-cell RNA sequencing, and more.