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The University of Navarra will test vaccines with dendritic cells on patients with melanoma, hepatoma and renal cell carcinoma

The University Hospital and the CIMA organized an international symposium on the Immunology and Immunotherapy of cancer

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The researcher Ignacio Melero. FOTO: Manuel Castells
15/01/07 13:11 Mª Pilar Huarte

A team from the University Hospital and the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra plans to carry out tests midway through 2007 on vaccinations with dendritic cells on cancer patients with hepatoma (liver cancer), melanoma, and renal cell carcinoma. This will enable the researchers to continue prior clinical studies once final approval is obtained from the appropriate state and local authorities.

Ignacio Melero, a researcher from the University of Navarra, will announce these results at an International Symposium on the Immunology and Immunotherapy of Cancer that took place on the campus in Pamplona with the support of the Ramon Areces Foundation. In total, 140 experts from countries such as the United Kingdom, the USA, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands discussed the latest advances in this field.

"The vaccination consists in cultivating these types of cells and artificially providing them with tumor antigens (substances that cause an immune response). In this way, the number of T lymphocytes that work against these kinds of cells increases and makes them acquire the necessary molecular mechanisms to kill the targeted tumorous cell (its objective)," Dr. Melero explained.

Synergy with conventional anticancer therapies

As this expert indicated, this is a type of immunotherapy for cancer, which has the advantage of "permitting the selective detection of malignant cells or cell groups which may be distributed throughout the organism; in addition, this therapy can potentially maintain its activity over long periods of time."

"Immunotherapy," added Dr. Melero, "not only is complementary to conventional therapies (such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy), but also in various instances has synergetic effects that significantly improve the results of these more traditional therapies." In addition, the researcher from the University of Navarra noted that there exists treatment methods that have been shown to be highly effective in animal models: "With melanoma and lymphoma results have already been obtained, and intense research is currently ongoing with renal, prostate and digestive-tract carcinomas."

Ignacio Melero participated as a speaker in the International Symposium on the Immunology and Immunotherapy of Cancer. Other speakers included Eli Gilboa, of the University of Miami (USA) and Carl Figdor, from the Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Sciences (Netherlands), who spoke on vaccination with dendritic cells.

In addition, Freda Stevenson, from the University of Southampton (UK), explained immunization against lymphoma using techniques of genetic vaccination, while Stanley Riddell, from the Fred Hutchinson Center for Cancer Research (USA), focused on immunotherapy of leukemia.