47Scientists hope to use the treatment on humans within two to three years. Credit: PA


March, 2016

A major scientific breakthrough could lead to the creation of bespoke cancer treatments for individual patients.

Researchers have identified “flag” proteins that act as immune system targets and are displayed on the surface of a patient’s tumour cells, wherever they might be in the body.

Once these proteins have been identified, potent immune system “T-cells” within the tumour can be harnessed to home in on them and destroy the cancer.

The main reason why cancer is so difficult to treat is because it constantly mutates. This approach would help overcome the ability of cancers to resist therapies by altering their genetic make-up, as the commons cells can be identified even in mutations.

Experts hope the discovery will allow the development of bespoke treatments for individual patients, even those in the most advanced stages of the disease.

It is hoped a vaccine can be developed based on the research that could be used on patients within two to three years.

Professor Charles Swanton, from University College London’s Cancer Institute, said: “I will be disappointed if we haven’t treated a patient within two years.

“Do we think it’s going to work? I hope this is going to result in improvements in survival outcomes. If this doesn’t work I’ll probably hang my hat up and do something else.”

He added: “Now we can prioritise and target tumour antigens that are present in every cell, the Achilles heel of these highly complex cancers.”

Any treatment would be used in conjunction with others and would not spell the end of chemotherapy.

The findings are detailed in the journal Science.


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