Study: Experimental vaccine may prevent IBD, colon cancer

NEW YORK An experimental vaccine against an abnormal protein found in some tumors has the potential to delay the onset of inflammatory bowel disease and in turn prevent progression to colon cancer, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

People with such chronic inflammatory disorders as IBD are at greater risk for developing cancer at the inflamed site, said senior author Olivera Finn, Ph.D., professor and chair, Department of Immunology, Pitt School of Medicine. The vaccine made by Finn's team is directed against an abnormal variant of a self-made cell protein called MUC1, which is altered and produced in excess in both IBD and colon cancer.

"Our experiments indicate that boosting the immune response against this protein early in the disease can delay IBD development, control inflammation and thereby reduce the risk of future cancers," Finn said. "These findings suggest also that the early stages of chronic inflammation might be considered a premalignant condition."

This study suggested that in the future the vaccine might be considered as part of the therapeutic regimen for IBD as well. The experimental vaccine has been studied in patients with colon and pancreatic cancer and currently is being tested as a prevention measure in patients who have a high risk for developing colon cancer.

Their findings are reported in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

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