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Archive for Monday, April 24, 1995

LHS GRAD RESEARCHING VACCINE FOR CANCER

April 24, 1995

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A Lawrence High School graduate was quoted in newspapers around the world recently following a discovery in cancer research.

Dr. Larry Kwak, investigator at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and a 1977 LHS graduate, led a team that reported last week that an anti-cancer vaccine foiled the spread of a rare form of blood cancer in one woman.

``If the results of this single patient are confirmed in a larger number (of patients), I think we can begin to talk in terms of cure,'' Kwak was quoted as saying in an Associated Press story Saturday.

Kwak's father, Nowhan Kwak, lives in Lawrence and is a professor of physics and astronomy at Kansas University.

Asked if he was proud of his son, the professor said, "Yes, of course. A Kwak can't do much better."

The KU professor said his son had a fellowship on the research at Stanford University for six years before the Food and Drug Administration granted him "full-scale funding for experimenting" at the National Cancer Institute.

The 43-year-old woman with multiple myeloma -- an aggressive form of cancer that often kills within a few years -- has been in remission for more than two years, Kwak said.

The report was published in Saturday's edition of The Lancet, a medical journal.

The notion of using so-called cancer vaccines -- treatments that rev up the patient's defense system to destroy tumors -- is not new. Preliminary evidence from a few prior studies suggested that vaccines may be useful in fighting a form of skin cancer and possibly lymphoma, cancer of the lymph glands.

However, in the latest report, researchers added a new twist. They elicited an immune response by injecting a piece of the cancer cell into a healthy volunteer.

Investigators injected a protein unique to the woman's cancer cells into her brother. His defense system made cancer-fighting substances, which were injected back into the patient.

In the report, Kwak said the brother could not have gotten cancer from the protein, which is only one small portion of the cell. The protein was sufficient to elicit an immune response against the entire cancer cell, but not enough to cause cancer, he said.

Other cancer experts warned that one woman's success story is far from proving the treatment is effective.

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