(HealthDay News) — Early progress has been made in developing a treatment that might one day help the immune system defend itself against cancer, according to research published in the April 16 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The treatment under study aims to enlist dendritic cells in the immune system. In this new phase I study, researchers tested the injection treatment in 45 patients with advanced cancer who weren’t responding to medication.

The results of their study suggest the treatment is safe but they don’t prove it works or determine which patients it could help. Nor do the researchers offer definitive details about factors such as cost.

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“The treatment was well tolerated at all dose levels,” Tibor Keler, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Celldex Therapeutics, told HealthDay. The only side effects were irritation and reddening at the site of the injection. Keler said the treatment could potentially be used with other medications that enlist the immune system to fight cancer, but only in patients whose tumors have a specific kind of protein (NY-ESO-1). “It’s present in about 30 percent of melanoma cases and in a smaller percentage of various other cancer types,” Keler said. But the treatment could be expanded to treat other kinds of cancer, he added.

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