Tobacco May Help Cure Cancer

Plant's robust immune system makes it a viable vaccine factory
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 22, 2008 5:39 PM CDT
A farm hand helps with the harvest of tobacco plants in a field in this undated file photo.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Scientists are trying to use the tobacco plant to produce a cancer vaccine, Newsweek reports. Ironic though it may be, the plant could someday offer fast and cheap production of antibodies personalized for individual’s tumor cells. In the first study of its kind, scientists found that the plant-based vaccine triggered the immune systems of patients with a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma without dangerous side effects. A larger study will now determine how effective the vaccine is at fighting the cancer.

"This is the first time a plant has been used for making a protein to inject into a person," said one of the researchers. "This would be a way to treat cancer without side effects. The idea is to marshal the body's own immune system to fight cancer." The need for individually-tailored cancer vaccines renders animal production too slow and expensive, so, if successful, plant-produced vaccines would offer a better option.