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More news from the front lines.

A report in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests that we may have just taken a giant step forward in the control of stomach cancer. A study at Stanford University supports the findings of two other studies, not yet published, that there appears to be a definite link between a particular bacterium and the development of stomach cancer.

The bacterium Helicobacter pylorus has been the subject of much study since it was first identified almost 10 years ago. Found in the stomach--and only rarely elsewhere in the body--it has already been implicated in some cases of stomach ulcer and gastritis. The Stanford study has now demonstrated the bacterium's presence in nearly all patients with the most common form of stomach cancer. And, as other studies are beginning to show, the evidence for its role in stomach cancer is becoming very convincing.

If the evidence continues to pile up, the implications are profound. Although some forms of cancer have long been linked to certain microorganisms (as well as certain viruses), none have yet been shown to have a bacterial origin. Producing a vaccine against the Helicobacter pylorus bacterium is a distinct possibility, giving a measure of prevention against this particularly deadly form of cancer that kills more than two-thirds of those it attacks. Although not so common in the United States, stomach cancer has reached epidemic proportions in some parts of the world, most notably South America and Asia.

Scientists have long dreamed of a vaccine against cancer. Vaccines, however, are made from the pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc.) that they then work against. Thus, unless a particular pathogen can be shown to be a causative factor in the development of a particular form of cancer, vaccination is not a useful tool. Stomach cancer is only one of the many forms of cancer, but if these early studies eventually result in a vaccine against that can similarly be attacked.
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Title Annotation:producing vaccine against Helicobacter pylorus may prevent stomach cancer
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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