Is the ImMucin Cancer Vaccine a Cure for Cancer?
There are no words in the English language sufficient to describe the physical and emotional impact of cancer. There is the terror felt when confronted with the diagnosis, the fear when facing the prognosis, and the horror when suffering the side-effects of treatment. What often follows is the devastating feeling of helplessness when facing the possibility of a recurrence. A cure for cancer could save millions of people from both the emotional trauma and, of course, the very real physical danger. Treatments are frequently helpful, but they are not always effective, and even then there is often no long-term guarantee of a cure. However, there is a lot of very promising research to give hope to those that have and will be touched by cancer.
A cure for cancer will not be found in one pill or recipe or treatment plan, but rather in teaching the immune system to fight this invader through some sort of vaccine. Research into cancer vaccines has been going on for decades with limited success. I’m always skeptical when I see the phrase “a cure for cancer” but the concept of a cancer vaccine is very promising. Research in this area has recently increased dramatically with several new approaches, of which one of the most promising is the ImMucin cancer vaccine.
ImMucin and many other similar vaccines are currently being tested in clinical trials. If successful, in some cases they would completely eliminate the need for treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Eventually, cancer could be no worse than the measles. If somebody contracted one of the many forms of cancer, they would simply receive a vaccination and see it vanish naturally, with no terrifying treatments that in some cases can seem worse than the disease. Contrary to a lot of popular paranoia, drug companies stand to profit tremendously from such vaccines, so there is a huge incentive to develop a viable solution. In fact, the market for cancer vaccines is expected to reach 7 billion dollars by the year 2015.
How Does the ImMucin Cancer Vaccine Work?
The main reason that cancer is such a deadly disease is that the immune system does not perceive cancer cells as abnormal or foreign, so it does not marshal its defenses as it would against something like a virus. The theory behind a cancer vaccine is to train the immune system to recognize some aspect of the cancer cells as an invader, thus prompting a full attack against them. This new approach is the basis for the most promising new treatments such as the ImMucin vaccine.
ImMucin is the result of a cooperative effort between the drug company Vaxil Biotherapeutics and TelAvivUniversity. Researchers have found that 90% of all types of cancer cells contain relatively high amounts of a protein called MUC1, which is also present at much lower levels in normal cells. The ImMucin vaccine teaches the immune system to recognize MUC1 as a foreign invader, and activates our t-cells to attack and destroy the cancer cells. Since the MUC1 levels in normal cells is so low, it does not prompt an immune response, so there are no dangerous side effects. ImMucin is a therapeutic vaccine, which means it is used on people who already have a disease, rather than to prevent it in healthy people.
There are no significant side effects that have been found with ImMucin. During initial tests on 10 cancer victims, after only 2-4 doses the immune system in 7 of the patients was strengthened, and 3 were completely free of the disease. 10 patients is not sufficient to constitute a conclusive finding, so the vaccine is currently being studied in numerous clinical trials.
What are the Advantages of the ImMucin Cancer Vaccine?
There are several advantages of the ImMucin vaccine (and several others like it) relative to other cancer treatments and vaccines.
- There are no side effects other than minor itching and soreness at the injection site.
- It is a universal vaccine, which means it doesn’t have to be tailored to a specific type of cancer and can be mass-produced.
- It can potentially completely prevent a reoccurrence, thus ‘curing’ cancer.
What are the Negative Aspects of the Vaccine?
Although this is groundbreaking research, there are a few weaknesses to the ImMucin vaccine.
- In advanced cancer, chemotherapy or radiation might have to be used first to get existing tumors to a manageable state in order for the vaccine to work.
- It doesn’t work on the few cancers that don’t contain MUC1 (roughly 10%).
As with any medication, ImMucin must be proven to be safe and effective through clinical trials before it becomes available to the general public, possibly as soon as 2020. Currently there are 30 other drug companies simultaneously creating vaccines that target MUC1, such as Stimuvax. Before seeking any medical treatment make sure you discuss it with your doctor. I am cautiously optimistic but hope the ImMucin cancer vaccine proves successful. It would be wonderful to live in a world where no individual ever has to suffer from cancer, and there would be no need for a pink ribbon or purple bracelet!