Scientists use EBV vaccine to target cancer cells

In collaboration with the Press Association

Scientists are using a vaccine for a common virus to try to kick-start the body's natural defences against certain cancers. Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), a herpes virus which is common across the world, is often associated with cancers including lymphomas and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. So a team from Birmingham University and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London is running a clinical trial of an EBV vaccine to try to encourage the body to produce an immune response to cancer cells. Presenting their findings at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Conference in Birmingham, researchers said the initial results from testing the samples of three patients with EBV suggested progress could be made.

By targeting two proteins found in cancer cells infected with the virus, EBNA1 and LMP2, the Birmingham team was able to boost and redirect an existing immune response to target the EBV-infected cancerous cells. Dr Neil Steven from the University of Birmingham's Cancer Research UK Institute for Cancer Studies commented: "Scientists are increasingly looking at ways to use cancer vaccines to stimulate the body's immune system against tumours. "EBV is an obvious target because it is present in a number of tumours," he added. "A successful vaccine could have world-wide application building on the benefits of chemotherapy and radiotherapy." The research team are now looking for more patients to take part in the ongoing trial of the vaccine.