Ovarian cancer vaccine produces promising results in early trial

In collaboration with the Press Association

A vaccine designed to prevent ovarian cancer from recurring has shown promise in early-stage clinical trials, researchers have said.

Around 7,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed every year in the UK and, although the majority of patients respond to treatment, many experience a recurrence of their tumours.

In a small-scale trial, led by Dr Kunle Odunsi of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, 18 women who had previously undergone surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer were given an experimental vaccine.

The vaccine is designed to work by enabling the body to recognise tumour cells containing a protein called NY-ESO-1, which is normally only produced in the male testes but is present in 40 per cent of ovarian tumours.

By teaching the immune system to recognise and destroy cells with this protein, the vaccine helps prevent the cancer from returning.

Publishing their findings in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers revealed that the 18 women had an average of 19 months in remission before their tumours started to reappear - significantly longer than expected.

Dr Alison Ross, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "We welcome any research that could lead to improved survival for people with ovarian cancer, and cancer vaccines have exciting potential.

"This early trial shows encouraging results but it's important to remember that much larger studies will be needed before we know for sure whether the vaccine is safe and effective."