Could vaccines help in the fight against pancreatic cancer?

6:33 PM, Dec 6, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - Only one-fifth of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will survive for a full year.

On this week's 8 Ways to Prevent Cancer segment, we take a look at whether there's any hope for new treatments.

"I've never been more hopeful that we'll make progress with this disease," said Dr. Bill Hawkins of the Siteman Cancer Center, who has spent his life treating and researching pancreatic cancer.

His hope comes in the form of two vaccines now in development that work off the theory of autoimmunity.

"So if body can recognize self as foreign, why can't we teach the body to recognize the cancer as a foreign thing and go and get it?" said Dr. Hawkins.

One vaccine trial is for patients who've had most of their cancer surgically removed.

"Then come in with a vaccine in combination with chemo and try to turn the immune system onto that cancer and treat that cancer keep it from coming back," explained Dr. Hawkins.

If Hawkins is successful, then patients could one day see less invasive and less toxic treatments.

"The theory is rev up the immune system and have the immune system do its job," said Dr. Hawkins, "which is to survey the situation, find anything that doesn't belong, and get rid of it."



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