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Anti-cancer Treatment Begins Clinical Trials

A treatment developed by Chinese scientists to control and even kill cancer cells has been approved for clinical research in Shanghai hospitals.

The therapy seeks to trigger the body's own immune system to detect and kill cancerous tissue. It may prove particularly useful in treating liver cancer, which can be especially rapid and lethal, according to biologists with the Shanghai Zhangjiang Biotech Research Center.

"It's been patented in the United States and Australia," said a biologist with the center, making it the first cancer treatment independently developed by Chinese scientists to be patented abroad.

It was approved by the State Food and Drug Administration for clinical tests in several hospitals in Shanghai.

It will hopefully prolong patients' lives by halting or even reversing tumor growth and has combined the advantages of a cancer treatment and a monoclonal antibody, says Prof. Guo Yajun of the US University of Nebraska.

Guo also heads the international tumor research institute of the army's No.2 Medical University, which has worked on the treatment in collaboration with a Shanghai-based laboratory for animal cell engineering.

The treatment involves a technology to fuse the patient's own cancer cells with a strain of antigen cells. Clinical research conducted in several countries have shown that such treatments can be effective in halting tumor growth, preventing relapse and overcoming the side-effects of other therapies.

Cancer has become the leading cause of death amongst urban Chinese, said Sun Yan, an expert with Beijing Cancer Hospital, affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

According to the Ministry of Health, the death rate from malignant tumors grew 29.42 percent in the 20 years between the 1970s and the 1990s. Around 2 million cancer patients were registered in 2000, with around 1.5 million dying in the same year.

Cancer prevention and treatment has become a global issue and has focused the attention of worldwide health authorities, medical researchers and pharmaceutical producers.

Many world famous life science researchers and developers are cooperating with their Chinese counterparts in a bid to find the most effective anti-cancer medicines, said Sun.

Sales of anti-cancer drugs were worth 1.2 billion US dollars last year and are expected to reach US$1.7 billion next year, according to the State Food and Drug Administration.

(Xinhua News Agency November 23, 2004)

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