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UC Berkeley group finds first prostate cancer antigen, providing hope for an eventual vaccine against the tumor

A discovery by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, could lead the way to a vaccine against prostate cancer.

The researchers, led by immunologist James P. Allison, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley, found a protein on prostate cancer cells that tips off the immune system to the tumor's presence and brings in an armada of immune cells to destroy it.

If the protein, called an antigen, is truly unique to prostate cancer cells, it could lead to diagnostics for prostate cancer and a potential vaccine therapy against the disease, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in men, after lung cancer. This is the first prostate cancer antigen found.

"The hope is twofold," Allison said. "One, knowing what the specific target of the immune system is, we can do some very direct studies of whether it is a prognosticator of favorable outcome of disease. And two, we can start thinking about using the antigens to develop a specific vaccine."

Allison, postdoctoral fellow Marcella Fass, graduate student Rebecca Waitz and their colleagues in the College of Letters & Science at UC Berkeley will report their findings on Wednesday, April 4, at Experimental Biology 2001, one of the largest and most interdisciplinary annual biomedical scientific meetings in the world. It is being held March 31 through April 4 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Allison also will talk about the findings at an 11 a.m. EDT media briefing on Tuesday, April 3, in the meeting's press room.

Allison, director of the Cancer Research Laboratory, is a member of UC Berkeley's Health Sciences Initiative, a collaboration among researchers throughout the campus to tackle some of today's major health problems.

Allison and his colleagues found the cancer antigen by looking in a strain of mice prone to prostate cancer. They treated the mice with a
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Contact: Robert Sanders
rls@pa.urel.berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
3-Apr-2001


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