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Vaccine may 'mop up' leukemia cells

BALTIMORE, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A vaccine may help rid patients of leukemia cells left behind by chemotherapy, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Hyam Levitsky of The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore cautions the results are very preliminary and they cannot yet rule out other reasons for success, but a vaccine made with leukemia cells seemed to reduce or eliminate the last remaining cancer cells in chronic myeloid leukemia patients taking the drug Imatinib mesylate, or Gleevec.

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"We want to get rid of every last cancer cell in the body, and using cancer vaccines may be a good way to mop up residual disease," Levitsky said in a statement.

The vaccine, which included the immune system stimulator GM-CSF and leukemia antigen molecules, was given to 19 patients who had measurable cancer cells after taking Gleevec for at least one year.

A series of 10 skin injections were given every three weeks. the process was repeated four times.

The study, published in Clinical Cancer Research, said after a median of 72 months of follow-up, the number of remaining cancer cells declined in 13 patients, 12 of whom reached their lowest levels of residual cancer cells. In seven patients, cancer cells became completely undetectable, the study said.

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