From The Cancer Chronicles #15
© April 1993 by Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.

The March 1993 Scientific American contained an article on "Teaching the Immune System to Fight Cancer." The author, Thierry Boon, director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Brussels, is working on a genetically-engineered vaccine to prompt white blood cells to attack a person's cancer.

It may be years before such a vaccine is ever administered to patients. But not all cancer vaccine research is so theoretical or high-tech. We recently interviewed Duncan L. McCollester, MD, PhD, a Cambridge University-trained researcher/internist who holds U.S. patents on a cancer vaccine called the Autologous Anticancer Antigen Preparation (AAAP). He has been developing it since the 1960s.

Q. How does your work on AAAP compare to the work that Dr. Boon reports in Scientific American?

A. The object of our two approaches is identical. Boon's article is fine, but its approach is circuitous, highly technical and, for now, of limited applicability. Our approach, on the other hand, is very simple and direct. It may also reveal the true cause of most cancers—the failure of the immune system.

Q. Why doesn't the immune system recognize malignant cells as foreign and just destroy them?

A. Most of the time, it does. What we call clinical cancers are the failures of the immune system. You have to understand that there are two basic kinds of immunity. The first is humoral, i.e., antibodies sent through the blood by "B" lymphocytes (white blood cells). These are like guided missiles that home in on and destroy foreign substances. Humoral immunity is especially effective against small entities such as viruses. But it is the second kind of immunity, based on "T" white blood cells, which is needed to kill relatively big things, like cancer cells.

Q. Immunity depends on a sophisticated recognition system. How does the immune system monitor cells to determine if they are "self" or "non-self"?

A. Within all cells there is an ingenious mechanism that takes proteins from inside and displays them as a kind of `flag,' announcing that cell's allegiance to self. This flag is called the histocompatibility antigen. When the immune system finds cells displaying a foreign flag (either because they are infected or have become malignant) in addition to the flag of self, it sends lethal T cells to kill them on contact.

Q. So how does cancer evade this sophisticated surveillance system?

A. Normally, it doesn't. But evolutionary pressures are at work. Some malignantly transformed cells acquire the means to evade destruction. They release a barrage of non-self material, waving foreign flags, into the blood. This tricks the immune system into switching production from effective cellular immunity to useless humoral antibodies. As we said, humoral antibodies cannot kill cancer cells. So thanks to this ruse, and there are probably others, malignant cells can multiply and form tumors.

Q. How can this knowledge be used to formulate a cancer vaccine?

A. An effective vaccine must contain both cancer-derived proteins and display the `flag of self.' It must not contain any proteins that would trick the immune system into producing those useless humoral antibodies. Finally, it has to have a `kicker,' to strengthen the stimulus of the cancer protein. We use manganese, essential for life. This attracts immune system cells to the vaccine injection site.

Q. How does this approach compare with Boon's?

A. Boon has identified a gene that produces the same foreign flags in many melanoma cells. This is a notable technical achievement. He has also identified some melanoma patients who have T cells that might destroy their melanomas. But the practicality of this high-tech vaccine has yet to be determined.

Our approach concentrates on substances already in-place on the surface of cancer cells. We separate normal cell surface structures from other parts of the cell and then remove everything that can lead to the production of worthless humoral antibodies. The final product, isolated cells surfaces, are very stable.

AAAP must be individually crafted from a portion of each patient's tumor. To make AAAP, we need four steps: we break up (disaggregate) a tissue sample, disrupt the cells, recover the membranes and finally add manganese. Most importantly, we are not just at the theoretical level. In a number of cases, AAAP has already demonstrated long-term clinical efficacy against a variety of cancers.

Q. What is the next step?

A. We're ready to start testing and have had good cooperation from the FDA. But we urgently need financial support.

Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D. is director of the The Moss Reports for cancer patients. Dr. Moss is the author of eleven books and three documentaries on cancer-related topics. He is or has been an advisor on alternative cancer treatments to the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Urological Association, Columbia University, the University of Texas, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the German Society of Oncology. He wrote the first article on alternative medicine for the Encyclopedia Britannica yearbook. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in the East, and Who's Who in Entertainment (as a film documentarian). This Web site does not advocate any particular treatment for cancer. We urge you to always seek competent medical advice for all health problems, especially cancer. Before consulting our site please read our full Disclaimer statement.

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