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Vaccine hope for inherited cancer threat


Active Member
Sep 10, 2004
A VACCINE to protect women at risk of hereditary breast cancer could be in use within three years, following a revolutionary breakthrough by Yorkshire scientists.
Breakthrough by Yorkshire scientists
Lucy Harvey
Scientists in Sheffield have developed a treatment which exclusively targets cancerous cells.
It will also be used to treat women who have already developed breast cancer as an alternative to chemotherpay, which can cause unpleasant side effects like hair loss and sickness.
The treatment could also be given as a preventative measure for women who have a history of breast cancer in their family.
Clinical trials are still being carried out and researchers hope the treatment and vaccine will be widely available within three years.
Dr Thomas Helleday, who heads the Sheffield research group, said: "Both the treatment and the vaccine are new concepts in cancer therapy. They could lead to revolutionary new treatments for women with hereditary breast cancer within the next few years."
Breast cancer accounts for almost a third of all cancers in women. Each year almost 41,000 new cases are diagnosed, with one in 10 cases being hereditary.
Some women prone to developing hereditary breast cancer have taken drastic action.
Radio presenter Becky Measures, 22, from Over Haddon near Bakewell, and her mother Wendy Watson both opted to have their healthy breasts removed after tests revealed they had a high risk.
A genetic test revealed Becky, who works for Peak FM, had an 80 to 90 per cent likelihood of getting cancer. Her grandmother and great grandmother's deaths were both related to breast cancer.
Dr Helen Bryant, from Sheffield University's Division of Genomic Medicine, said: "The treatment is a significant breakthrough which specifically targets and kills genetically defective tumour cells without harming other healthy cells in the body. We hope it will be widely available in two or three years."
The scientists discovered most women have genes which prevent breast tumours from forming, but some inherit mutations in those genes giving them an 80 per cent chance of developing breast cancer.
Normal cells replicate by dividing DNA into two strands and copying each strand. Before replication, damage in the DNA is repaired using a protein called PARP.
The new treatment uses a chemical that prevents the PARP protein from repairing the DNA, meaning mutated cells cannot multiply.
Dr Bryant said: "The breast cancer tumour cannot perform recombination and is therefore unable to replicate and create new cells.
"The tumour is then unable to grow and eventually dies.
"The beauty of this system is that the other cells in the body are likely to be unaffected by the treatment and continue to recombine to repair any mistakes that occur.
"As well as being prescribed by doctors for treatment, women who know they are at risk from hereditary breast cancer can use it as a preventative measure.
"This method is unique in that it only targets the tumour cells and small tissue around those cells will not be affected."
The latest developments are the results of a three year research project funded by a £2.7m grant from Yorkshire Cancer Research.
Charity spokeswoman Linsey Coulthard, said: "If we have a vaccination and a treatment we could potentially save 4,000 lives each year.