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Vaccine hope for leukaemia patients

A vaccine that could prevent a relapse of leukaemia following chemotherapy or bone marrow transplant is to be tested on human patients.

The drug works by boosting the patient's own immune system and is to be trialled in the next few months at King's College London.

It is hoped the vaccine could be used to treat other types of cancer in future.

The first tests are to be carried out on those with the most common form of leukaemia in adults - acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

The vaccine is designed to trace and attack any cancer cells that are still in the body once a patient has been treated, preventing a potential relapse.

Professor Farzin Farzaneh, Professor of Molecular Medicine at King's College London, said: "The treatment effectively tricks the immune system into thinking the leukaemia cells are foreign cells, even though they are the patient's own. The patient's immune system then destroys these cells."

It has taken 20 years to develop the treatment, funded by the Department of Health, the Leukaemia Research Fund (LRF) and the Elimination of Leukaemia Fund (ELF).

The vaccine is created by taking cells from the patient and genetically modifying them in a laboratory so they can track down and act on leukaemia cells. They are then reinserted in the patient.

The research is to be published in the Journal of Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy, in March.

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King's College London