The next big advance in cancer treatment could be a vaccine

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Cancer patient Kathleen Jade receiving her third dose of an experimental breast cancer vaccine at University of Washington Medical Center - Montlake, on May 30, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
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Research scientist Kevin Potts uses a multichannel pipette to dissociate ovarian cancer cells with the enzyme trypsin at UW Medicine's Cancer Vaccine Institute on May 25, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
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Updated 27 June 2023
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The next big advance in cancer treatment could be a vaccine

SEATTLE, US: The next big advance in cancer treatment could be a vaccine.
After decades of limited success, scientists say research has reached a turning point, with many predicting more vaccines will be out in five years.
These aren’t traditional vaccines that prevent disease, but shots to shrink tumors and stop cancer from coming back. Targets for these experimental treatments include breast and lung cancer, with gains reported this year for deadly skin cancer melanoma and pancreatic cancer.
“We’re getting something to work. Now we need to get it to work better,” said Dr. James Gulley, who helps lead a center at the National Cancer Institute that develops immune therapies, including cancer treatment vaccines.
More than ever, scientists understand how cancer hides from the body’s immune system. Cancer vaccines, like other immunotherapies, boost the immune system to find and kill cancer cells. And some new ones use mRNA, which was developed for cancer but first used for COVID-19 vaccines.
For a vaccine to work, it needs to teach the immune system’s T cells to recognize cancer as dangerous, said Dr. Nora Disis of UW Medicine’s Cancer Vaccine Institute in Seattle. Once trained, T cells can travel anywhere in the body to hunt down danger.
“If you saw an activated T cell, it almost has feet,” she said. “You can see it crawling through the blood vessel to get out into the tissues.”
Patient volunteers are crucial to the research.
Kathleen Jade, 50, learned she had breast cancer in late February, just weeks before she and her husband were to depart Seattle for an around-the-world adventure. Instead of sailing their 46-foot boat, Shadowfax, through the Great Lakes toward the St. Lawrence Seaway, she was sitting on a hospital bed awaiting her third dose of an experimental vaccine. She’s getting the vaccine to see if it will shrink her tumor before surgery.
“Even if that chance is a little bit, I felt like it’s worth it,” said Jade, who is also getting standard treatment.




Kathleen Jade is examined by Dr. Will Gwin before receiving her third dose of an experimental breast cancer vaccine at University of Washington Medical Center - Montlake, on May 30, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)


Progress on treatment vaccines has been challenging. The first, Provenge, was approved in the US in 2010 to treat prostate cancer that had spread. It requires processing a patient’s own immune cells in a lab and giving them back through IV. There are also treatment vaccines for early bladder cancer and advanced melanoma.
Early cancer vaccine research faltered as cancer outwitted and outlasted patients’ weak immune systems, said Olja Finn, a vaccine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
“All of these trials that failed allowed us to learn so much,” Finn said.
As a result, she’s now focused on patients with earlier disease since the experimental vaccines didn’t help with more advanced patients. Her group is planning a vaccine study in women with a low-risk, noninvasive breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ.
More vaccines that prevent cancer may be ahead too. Decades-old hepatitis B vaccines prevent liver cancer and HPV vaccines, introduced in 2006, prevent cervical cancer.
In Philadelphia, Dr. Susan Domchek, director of the Basser Center at Penn Medicine, is recruiting 28 healthy people with BRCA mutations for a vaccine test. Those mutations increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The idea is to kill very early abnormal cells, before they cause problems. She likens it to periodically weeding a garden or erasing a whiteboard.
Others are developing vaccines to prevent cancer in people with precancerous lung nodules and other inherited conditions that raise cancer risk.
“Vaccines are probably the next big thing” in the quest to reduce cancer deaths, said Dr. Steve Lipkin, a medical geneticist at New York’s Weill Cornell Medicine, who is leading one effort funded by the National Cancer Institute. “We’re dedicating our lives to that.”




Research scientist Kevin Potts uses ovarian cancer cells to set up an experiment at UW Medicine's Cancer Vaccine Institute on May 25, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

People with the inherited condition Lynch syndrome have a 60 percent to 80 percent lifetime risk of developing cancer. Recruiting them for cancer vaccine trials has been remarkably easy, said Dr. Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who is leading two government-funded studies on vaccines for Lynch-related cancers.
“Patients are jumping on this in a surprising and positive way,” he said.
Drugmakers Moderna and Merck are jointly developing a personalized mRNA vaccine for patients with melanoma, with a large study to begin this year. The vaccines are customized to each patient, based on the numerous mutations in their cancer tissue. A vaccine personalized in this way can train the immune system to hunt for the cancer’s mutation fingerprint and kill those cells.
But such vaccines will be expensive.
“You basically have to make every vaccine from scratch. If this wasn’t personalized, the vaccine could probably be made for pennies, just like the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Patrick Ott of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
The vaccines under development at UW Medicine are designed to work for many patients, not just a single patient. Tests are underway in early and advanced breast cancer, lung cancer and ovarian cancer. Some results may come as soon as next year.
Todd Pieper, 56, from suburban Seattle, is participating in testing for a vaccine intended to shrink lung cancer tumors. His cancer spread to his brain, but he’s hoping to live long enough to see his daughter graduate from nursing school next year.
“I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, either for me or for other people down the road,” Pieper said of his decision to volunteer.
One of the first to receive the ovarian cancer vaccine in a safety study 11 years ago was Jamie Crase of nearby Mercer Island. Diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer when she was 34, Crase thought she would die young and had made a will that bequeathed a favorite necklace to her best friend. Now 50, she has no sign of cancer and she still wears the necklace.
She doesn’t know for sure if the vaccine helped, “But I’m still here.”


4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country home

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4 men arrested for allegedly trespassing on grounds of British prime minister’s country home

North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and escorted off the property

LONDON: Four men were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of trespassing after entering the grounds of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s home in northern England, police said.
North Yorkshire police said the group was detained just after noon and escorted off the property.
They were arrested on suspicion of aggravated trespass.
A group called Youth Demand posted video showing a member it said defecated in the pond on Sunak’s property.
The incident comes just over a week before the UK’s general election that will determine if Sunak remains in power.

Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

Updated 3 min 12 sec ago
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Expanding extremist groups in Africa fuel worries that they could attack the US or Western allies

  • Gen. CQ Brown: ‘Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions’
  • Brown: ‘I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world’

GABORONE, Botswana: Violent extremist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group are growing in size and influence across Africa, fueling worries that as they improve their tactics, they could attack the US or Western allies.
US defense and military officials described the threats and their concerns about growing instability in Africa, where a number of coups have put ruling juntas in control, leading to the ouster of American troops and a decline in US intelligence gathering.
“Threats like Wagner, terrorist groups and transnational criminal organizations continue to sow instability in multiple regions,” Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in opening remarks Tuesday at a conference of African chiefs of defense in Botswana. “I think we can all agree, what happens in one part of the world, does not stay in one part of the world.”
Wagner is the Russian mercenary group that has gone into African nations to provide security as Western forces, including from the US and France, have been pushed out. The group is known for its brutality, and human rights organizations have accused its members of raping and killing civilians.
While Brown only touched briefly on the terror threat in the region, it was a key topic among others at the conference and spurred questions from military chiefs in the audience after his speech. They wanted to know what the US could do to help stem the spread of insurgents in West Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel.
This is the first time that the chiefs of defense conference has been held on African soil. And it is the first time the US joint chiefs chairman has visited a sub-Saharan country since 1994, when Gen. John Shalikashvili visited Rwanda and Zaire.
A senior US defense official said Al-Qaeda linked groups — such as Al-Shabab in Somalia and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa Al-Muslimin, known as JNIM, in the Sahel region — are the largest and most financially viable insurgencies. JNIM is active in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and is looking to expand into Benin and Togo, which it uses as hubs to rest, recuperate, get financing and gather weapons but also has increased attacks there.
At the same time, the Daesh group has key cells in West Africa and in the Sahel. The defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a threat assessment, said the Islamic State cells were getting increasing direction from the group’s leadership that relocated to northern Somalia. That has included how to kidnap Westerners for ransom, how to learn better military tactics, how to hide from drones and how to building their own small quadcopters.
A US military airstrike in Somalia on May 31 targeted Daesh militants and killed three, according to US Africa Command. US officials have said the strike targeted the group’s leader, but the defense official said Monday that it’s still unclear if he was killed.
Roughly 200 Islamic State insurgents are in Somalia, so they are vastly outnumbered by Al-Shabab, which has grown in size to between 10,000 and 12,000.
The growth of the insurgent groups within Africa signals the belief by both Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group that the continent is a ripe location for extremism, where extremist ideology can take root and expand, the official said.
And it comes as the US was ordered to pull out its 1,000 troops from Niger in the wake of last July’s coup and also about 75 from Chad. Those troop cuts, which shut down a critical US counterterrorism and drone base at Agadez, hamper intelligence gathering in Niger, said Gen. Michael Langley, head of US Africa Command.
Surveillance operations before the coup gave the US a greater ability to get intelligence on insurgent movements. Now, he said, the key goal is a safe and secure withdrawal of personnel and equipment from both Agadez and a smaller US facility near the airport.
Langley met with Niger’s top military chief, Brig. Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, during the conference, and said military-to-military communications continue but that it’s yet to be determined how much the new transitional government will deal with the US
Currently, he said, there are about 400 troops still at Agadez and 200 near the airport.
But, he added that “as we’re in transition and resetting, we need to maintain capabilities to get enough intelligence to identify warnings of a threat out there.”
Langley said the US is still trying to assess the militant groups’ capabilities as they grow.
“Yes, they’ve been growing in number. Have they been growing in capability where they can do what we call external ops attacks on the homeland and attacks on allies, whether we’re talking about Europe or anyone? That’s what we closely watch,” he said. “I’d say it has the potential as they grow in numbers.”
Both Langley and Brown spoke more extensively about the need for the US and African nations to communicate more effectively and work together to solve security and other problems.
And Brown acknowledged that the US needs to “do better at understanding the perspectives of others, ensuring their voices and expertise don’t get drowned out.”
The US has struggled to maintain relations with African nations as many foster growing ties to Russia and China.
Some African countries have expressed frustration with the US for forcing issues, such as democracy and human rights, that many see as hypocrisy, given Washington’s close ties to some autocratic leaders elsewhere. Meanwhile, Russia offers security assistance without interfering in politics, making it an appealing partner for military juntas that seized power in places like Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in recent years.


NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats

Updated 25 June 2024
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NATO to formally appoint Rutte next boss Wednesday: diplomats

  • Diplomats from several NATO states said Rutte will take over from current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg
  • The seasoned Dutch leader will take the reins at a pivotal time

BRUSSELS: NATO will officially name outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as the alliance’s next head on Wednesday, after ambassadors from all 32 member countries greenlit his appointment, diplomats said Tuesday.
Diplomats from several NATO states said Rutte, who was strongly backed by leading power the United States, will take over from current secretary general Jens Stoltenberg when his term ends on October 1.
Rutte, 57, last week sealed the race to lead the Western military alliance after lone challenger Romanian President Klaus Iohannis dropped out.
The seasoned Dutch leader, who is set to leave office in the Netherlands soon after almost 14 years in charge, will take the reins at a pivotal time.
The next NATO chief will have to grapple with the ongoing fallout from Russia’s war on Ukraine and the potential return to the US presidency of Donald Trump after elections in November.


Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

Updated 25 June 2024
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Spanish police examine CCTV footage in missing UK teenager’s case in Tenerife, mayor says

  • Slater, 19, went missing on June 17
  • Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley

SANTIAGO DEL TEIDE, Spain: Spanish police are examining CCTV footage from a local town on the island of Tenerife near where British teenager Jay Slater disappeared, its mayor said on Tuesday.
Slater, 19, went missing on June 17 and his phone was last traced to the Masca ravine in a remote national park on the Canary Islands archipelago.
Dozens of police officers, rescue teams and fire fighters have been searching since Wednesday in the steep valley located on the island’s west coast, using dogs, drones and a helicopter.
Warren Slater, the teenager’s father, on Monday shared a blurry still picture from a security camera in the town of Santiago del Teide of a person that could be his son in the hope it would help with the search, British media reported.
“We know the police are investigating (the CCTV images). They have asked for the town hall’s security cameras and they are also working with the company that handles those cameras,” mayor Emilio Jose Navarro told Reuters.
The image shared by the family to British media outlets shows a person walking through town, but it is impossible to make out a face.
Navarro said police had interviewed several people who may have seen him, including some who said they thought they had spotted him on the coast watching matches in the Euro 2024 soccer tournament.
British national Tom Beckett, who is familiar with the area where Slater last used his phone and was in Santiago del Teide on Tuesday, said he believed the teenager may not have reached the town.
“Had he been on the road, he would have been seen by numerous tourists. It’s a very narrow road so they wouldn’t have missed him, they would have seen him,” Beckett told Reuters.


Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

Updated 25 June 2024
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Spanish police smash international drug-smuggling ring

  • Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons
  • Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation

BARCELONA: Spanish police have smashed an international network led by Turkish nationals suspected of smuggling “large amounts” of marijuana and heroin from Spain to other European nations, police said on Tuesday.
Raids in 28 locations in the southern cities of Granada, Malaga and Seville earlier this month netted caches of money and weapons, as well as 10 luxury vehicles and over two tons of marijuana, Spain’s Guardia Civil police force said.
Officers arrested 36 suspects from 10 nations as part of the operation, including the suspected leader of the network, a man of Turkish origin who lived in Spain and was the target of an international arrest warrant issued by Turkiye, they added.
The group “was focused on exporting large amounts of marijuana and heroin from our country to Germany and other nations in eastern Europe,” police said.
The arrested suspects also included nationals from Argentina, Austria, Germany, Montenegro, Romania, Spain, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela.
European Union police force Europol, which coordinated the investigation, said over 400 officers from French, Spanish and Turkish law enforcement agencies took part in the operation.
Spain is one of the main entry points for drugs into Europe given its close ties with Latin America and its proximity to Morocco.
Latin America is the main source of cocaine and Morocco is a key source of hashish, a sticky brown substance made from the resin of the cannabis plant.