First Steps To A Cancer Vaccine
Aug. 21 -- Lung cancer is our number one cancer killer. Only 15-percent of patients will be cured. The rest will be given just months to live. Now a new vaccine may soon give patients hope.
Marilyn Cohn knows how to deal with a bad hand. Her doctor dealt her one she thought she wouldn't be able to beat.
Marilyn Cohn, lung cancer survivor: "He said, I had lung cancer, and right to my face, he said, 'You have one year to live.'"
Dr. Luis Raez gave her a second chance.
Luis E. Raez, MD, FACP/oncologist : "When she came to us, the tumor had already spread."
Her only hope, a vaccine never before tested in humans.
Marilyn Cohn: "When you're told you have a year to live... you'll do anything!"
Dr. Luis Raez: "We're trying to make your immune system aware that you have a lung cancer tumor inside, and we need to kill it, and you need to defend yourself."
To do that, doctors inject patients with a vaccine filled with lung cancer cells. It's the same theory used to fight the flu. The immune system is alerted to the foreign cells and kills them.
Dr. Luis Raez: "Your immune system builds up an army of cells. It goes and fights the lung cancer tumor."
That army then seeks out lung cancer cells throughout the body and destroys them.
Whenever doctors test a drug on people they start small. Nineteen patients got the vaccine. One tumor shrunk and five others stopped growing, including Marilyn's, which was a start. Now doctors are going to expand the study.
Dr. Luis Raez: "We stopped the tumor growing, but also, she has not progressed in that time."
After surviving eight years she knows luck is on her side.
The only side-effect patients complained about was a slight rash. The vaccine will now move on to larger clinical trial involving one injection a week for nine weeks.
To learn more about this lung vaccine research, click here.
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