Immune system 'cycle' may fight cancer

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Melbourne cancer researchers discover that the body's immune system may cycle every 3-10 days - which could change the way cancer drugs are administered and possibly improve cancer survival rates.

Within this cycle, scientists at Genetic Technologies believe they have found a possible 'optimal window' for administering cancer drugs so that they work in best with the patient's immune response to the disease. The project, called ImmunAid, does not involve another cancer fighting drug; more simply, it determines the optimum time for administering existing treatments. Genetic Technologies is in the process of collaborating with a number of parties under which treatment trials will be initiated.

It is hoped that these trials will begin in early 2007.

Human monitoring trials in the USA and in Australia have recently provided evidence that the immune system may indeed 'cycle' in relation to certain diseases, including malignant melanoma and ovarian cancer.

Genetic Technologies's chief scientist officer, Gary Cobon, says all of the cancer patients examined in these trials demonstrated cycling.

'These results have also been statistically modelled, and the presence of a cycle has been independently confirmed,' he says.

Cobon says the body's initial immune response to cancer is similar to that mounted against other diseases, but it wanes before it can eliminate the cancer or virus.

'We believe those so-called 'miracle recoveries' seen in terminal patients and recorded in the scientific literature could be the result of the chemotherapy being fortuitously administered at the right time in the immune cycle,' says Dr Cobon.

At the invitation of the internationally renowned cancer research Institute, ImmunAid researchers this month presented a scientific poster at a major cancer conference in New York.

This presentation attracted interest from leading cancer specialists and several research organisations in USA have expressed an interest in conducting their own trials to demonstrate the presence of the ImmunAid cycle and to time the treatment of patients accordingly.

The net result of this project could be a 'personalised medicine' approach to the treatment of cancer.

Each individual has subtle differences in the periodicity of their immune response against cancers, so each patient would have to be individually monitored to have their treatment optimally timed.

Researchers believe the immune cycle will prove to be just as effective at fighting viruses such as HIV or Hepatitis C.

The ImmunAid theory was first reported in The Journal of Immunology in 2004 when it was reported that the ImmunAid strategy may have prevented disease progression in a HIV model by treating mice at particular times.

While there is a substantial amount of work still to be done, ImmunAid researchers are optimistic that their research may lead to improved recovery rates from cancer and a wide range of chronic illnesses.

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