IN A world-first a new vaccine developed in Australia is giving hope to thousands of women with ovarian cancer by keeping sufferers in remission longer and delaying relapses.
The Cvac vaccine will enter its final clinical trial in August and it could be available within five years.
If the vaccine is given to women who are diagnosed in early stages, a relapse may never occur.
The vaccine works by using a patient's own white cells to identify the protein Mucin-1, which is found in ovarian cancer tumours, and force the body to create its own immune response to kill the tumours. It is normally given to the women after they have finished chemotherapy and surgery.
Prima BioMed pharmaceuticals company makes the drug and its CEO Martin Rogers said the vaccine was offering a better quality of life for women who sometimes only have months to live.
"To have something that can help their quality of life and prevent a relapse is a great thing," he said.
"Almost every patient will relapse because ovarian cancer is diagnosed very late at stage 3 or 4 and that's the insidious nature of the disease."
It has taken 13 years and cost almost $100 million to reach the final clinical trial. A team of scientists and specialists have been studying the vaccine's development closely, including Dr Neil Frazer, the brother of the cervical vaccine inventor Dr Ian Frazer.
While the trials will be held in Melbourne, women from NSW have been invited to participate.
Now in remission, Janien Burgess, 53 of Wollongong, is hoping she won't have a relapse after finishing her chemotherapy this year.
Mrs Burgess was diagnosed last July and hopes to participate in the trial.
"I'm hoping it's all OK and it's all gone. You try not to look at the statistics but at the same time you think maybe it won't be me and I am going to get through it," she said.
* There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer
* More than 1200 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Australia
* 800 women die from the disease every year
* Three women are diagnosed every day
* Only 40 per cent of women with ovarian cancer will be alive after five years
* If diagnosed early, this doubles to 80 per cent
Source: Ovarian Cancer Australia