Dr. Avnish Jolly, 24th Jul :According to latest findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the treatment against a common form of cancer could come from plants. The findings came in the first human tests of a vaccine grown in genetically engineered plants.
The treatments, which would vaccinate cancer patients against their malignant cells through injection, could lead to earlier personalised therapy to tackle follicular B-cell lymphoma, an immune-system malignancy diagnosed in about 16,000 people every year. The researchers used tobacco plants that were genetically engineered to reproduce the vaccine. Scientists infected a tobacco plant with the gene-carrying virus by scratching the virus on its leaves. The virus takes the gene into the plant’s cells, which then produces antibodies. Technicians then snip off the plant’s leaves and grind them up. Only a few plants are needed to make a vaccine for a patient. None of the harmful chemicals end up in the purified vaccines.
Presently standard treatment for the disease is chemotherapy and doctors advocate it has such severe side effects that patients often choose to wait out the early stages of the illness. However, plant-grown vaccines, which lack side effects, could allow earlier, more aggressive treatment of cancer.
Ronald Levy, MD, author of the study shared that this would be a way to treat cancer without side effects and the idea is to marshal the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
"It’s pretty cool technology," Levy was quoted as saying. "And it’s really ironic that you would make a treatment for cancer out of tobacco." The next step is a Second Phase clinical trial to test the effectiveness of plant-grown vaccines in a larger group of lymphoma patients.
SOURCE: These are the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences