Gene therapy for ovarian cancer shows early promise

In collaboration with the Press Association

An ovarian cancer vaccine has been shown to completely eradicate or "significantly" inhibit tumours in early stage tests on mice, say researchers.

It remains to be seen whether the results can be translated into humans, the study notes.

Ovarian cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women in the UK, with 6,900 new cases annually.

The research team gave the genetically engineered vaccine to mice implanted with human ovarian cancer cells.

The vaccine contains cytosine deaminase which is a 'suicide gene' that causes cells involved in tumour production to kill themselves.

A second group of mice received the vaccine at 30 and 60 day intervals, and a control group were not given the vaccine.

The research team found that all mice immediately vaccinated were able to resist the tumours, and mice vaccinated at later stages showed "significant" resistance.

In comparison, all the non-vaccinated mice died.

"Current treatments for ovarian cancer are fairly harsh," said report author Dr David Bartlett, professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh.

"Given their tumour selectivity and cancer killing potential, vaccinia vectors expressing recombinant gene products represent a potent, non-toxic alternative for treating this deadly disease."

The research was carried out by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and was presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Gene Therapy.