Health Team

Miami researchers work to develop lung cancer vaccine

Posted September 9, 2008 5:50 p.m. EDT
Updated September 9, 2008 10:46 p.m. EDT

Researchers believe a new treatment could save future patients from lung cancer – the No. 1 cancer killer.

“It is the biggest killer of all the cancers,” Dr. Eckhard Podack, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at the University of Miami.

Lung cancer is usually caught very late, leaving few treatment options.

Even for most young lung cancer patients, however, treatments prolong life but don’t cure the disease. Treatments also have serious side effects. For these reasons, doctors are developing new weapons like a lung cancer vaccine.

Researchers around the world, including ones at UNC, are working on different versions of the vaccine.

At the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Podack is trying to help the body cure itself.

“The vaccine therapy uses the immune system,” Podack said.

Podack’s vaccine revs up "killer cells" that defend the body.

“The killer cell is what we want to have because they will go to the tumor and kill the tumor cells,” Podack said.

In a trial of 20 terminally ill people, some lung cancers were significantly reduced, and the treatment provided a handful of patients with a few extra years.

Podack is about to test a new version of the vaccine.

“It’s going to be exciting,” he said.

Podack believes his work will lead to an effective treatment and possibly a cure for cancer's No. 1 killer.