A cancer ‘vaccine’ which kills tumours then stops them coming back is set to be tested on humans within months, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
The new approach involves injecting two chemotherapy drugs into tumours, kick-starting the immune system to fight back.
Scientists have had stunning results in mice, clearing cancer in up to 80 per cent of cases, then keeping them tumour-free.
Researchers hope that trials in people with common cancers, including bowel, breast and skin diseases, will yield similar results.
One said the jab triggered an ‘extremely powerful immune response’, while another said there was ‘every reason’ to think the method would work in humans too.
The technique involves smuggling two established drugs into tumours, thanks to a third chemical that makes the walls of cancer cells more porous.
It allows for precise targeting of drugs – and lower dosages, which should reduce side effects such as hair loss and fatigue.
Trials will soon start on up to 50 patients in the US and Canada.
Dr Ian Walters, of Intensity Therapeutics, the US firm behind the new treatment, said: ‘Even though we are using chemo, this works on the immune system.
‘The tumours die from the inside out. When that happens, the immune cells can “see” that it’s cancer, and form an extremely powerful immune response. It’s almost a personalised vaccine.’
The company was founded by Lew Bender, who is not a cancer expert but a chemical engineer.
He recalled: ‘My wife said, “You’ve never worked in cancer before, and you are going to be the genius who tells everybody who’s spending billions of dollars on fighting cancer that you have a better idea than they do?”’
Dr Jay Berzofsky, of the US National Cancer Institute, said of the mice experiments: ‘The immune system develops memory, so if you try to give those animals the same tumour, they will reject it before it even starts to grow.’
Asked whether the results could be repeated with humans, he replied: ‘The only way to find out is to do a clinical trial.’