What if your body could fight cancer the same way it does a common cold?
That question inspired one of Australia’s foremost medical researchers, Vasso Apostolopoulas to trial a new.
The Victoria University Professor’s ground-breaking vaccine for breast cancer is now in commercial development. Clinical trials suggest it could revolutionise the way doctors treat one of humanity’s deadliest diseases.
It works by stimulating the body’s immune system to attack cancer, just as it would a virus. And unlike many other forms of cancer treatment, the side-effects appear minimal.
“Basically, my research is on immunology and the study of the immune system. We are ‘educating’ the immune system to overcome any diseases,” Dr Apostolopoulas says.
“We are [helping] the immune system to either be more powerful so it can be strong enough to kill cancerous cells or to make cancer go to sleep.”
Dr Apostolopoulas began working on immunotherapy – treating disease by stimulating the body’s natural defences – when the concept first began to emerge in the 1990s.
Since then she has helped make numerous breakthroughs, including the world’s first vaccine for ovarian cancer.
The former Young Victorian of the Year and Premier’s Award for Medical Research winner has received funding to develop a vaccine for type-1 diabetes.
And her vaccine for multiple sclerosis is due to undergo human trial this year.
If that isn’t enough, she is currently working on a treatment for drug addicts that aims to block the effects of methamphetamine or ice.
It sounds like an impossible record of achievement, but Dr Apostolopoulas believes nothing is beyond our reach – if we put our minds to it.
“Nothing is hard,” she says. “Everything can be achieved.”