Customized Drugs for Cancer Patients

US clinical trials are now under way for personalized cancer vaccines made using a patient's own cancer cells. Already being marketed in Australia and Holland, these custom-made treatments are injected over a series of weeks or months and have proven to be far less toxic than traditional therapies.

The personalized cancer vaccines work in theory much like a flu shot. The vaccine is introduced into the patient's body over several weeks, forcing the body's immune system to recognize the intruder. Early evidence shows that the body "remembers" the cancer cells and attacks them if they return after treatment.

Most research is now being focused on late-stage cancer patients who have few remaining treatment options. It is still unknown whether personalized vaccines for cancer patients can be produced on a large scale at a reasonable price. Three companies, Avax, Intracel, and Antigenics, are hoping to have a commercial version of their vaccines available within the next two to three years. Current US trials include kidney, colon, late-stage melanoma, and ovarian cancers. For more information about clinical trials go to www.avax-tech.com and www.antigenics.com.

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