Novel Immunotherapy Vaccine Decreases Recurrence in HER2 Positive Breast Cancer Patients

Editor’s note: This article discusses the results of a clinical trial—a research study with volunteer patients. The goal of the trial was to test a new breast cancer treatment called GP2. GP2 is a cancer vaccine that works by boosting a patient’s own immune system to keep cancer from returning after treatment (recurrence). In the trial, it was shown to be safe and effective. The researchers also found that women with HER2-positive breast cancer who had taken the drug trastuzumab before GP2 treatment experienced no recurrence.

“A new breast cancer vaccine candidate, (GP2), provides further evidence of the potential of immunotherapy in preventing disease recurrence. This is especially the case for high-risk patients when it is combined with a powerful immunotherapy drug. These findings are being presented by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco.

“One of only a few vaccines of its kind in development, GP2 has been shown to be safe and effective for breast cancer patients, reducing recurrence rates by 57%. Further, women with the highest overexpression of HER2 (known as HER2 +3) had no cancer recurrences when they were administered the vaccine after completing trastuzumab (Herceptin), a type of immunotherapy drug known as a monoclonal antibody. HER2 is an oncoprotein that promotes tumor growth and is expressed to some extent in 75-80% of breast cancers…

“We believe many more patients will benefit in some way from immunotherapy,” says Mittendorf. “The challenge will be identifying the right immunotherapeutic approach for each individual patient. When doctors are able to do that, cancer therapy, and immunotherapy specifically, will follow a more personalized approach.””


One-Two Punch for Brain Tumors? New Clinical Trial Opens

Editor’s note: Researchers have launched a new clinical trial—a research study with volunteer patients—to test a new treatment for brain tumors. In the treatment, a patient first undergoes tumor-removal surgery. Then, a harmless virus delivers two new genes to the brain to kill any remaining cancer cells. One of the genes kills tumor cells directly and the other boosts the patient’s own immune system to attack tumor cells. Patients in the trial will also receive standard chemotherapy and radiation. Two patients are already enrolled. The trial is enrolling patients with grade 3 or 4 malignant primary glioma, such as glioblastoma multiforme.

“University of Michigan Health System doctors have started testing a unique new approach to fighting brain tumors — one that delivers a one-two punch designed to knock out the most dangerous brain cancer.

“The experimental approach, based on U-M research, delivers two different genes directly into the brains of patients following the operation to remove the bulk of their tumors.

“The idea: trigger immune activity within the brain itself to kill remaining tumor cells — the ones neurosurgeons can’t take out, which make this type of tumor so dangerous.

“It’s the first time this gene therapy approach is being tried in humans, after more than a decade of research in experimental models.”


AstraZeneca Widens Cancer Immunotherapy Net with Advaxis Trial

The gist: Cancer treatments called immunotherapies, which boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, are currently a very active focus of research for drug companies. Two drug companies have now decided to collaborate and combine their two immunotherapy drugs to see how well they work for people with HPV-associated cervical cancer or head and neck cancer. The two companies will jointly run a clinical trial with volunteer patients to test the combination treatment, in the hope that the combo will work better than either drug alone. The drugs being combined are MEDI4736 and ADXS-HPV.

“AstraZeneca is casting its net wider in the hot cancer immunotherapy field through a clinical trial collaboration with U.S. biotech firm Advaxis that will test drugs from both companies in combination.

“Britain-based AstraZeneca – the target of an unsuccessful $118 billion takeover bid by Pfizer earlier this year – is banking on widespread use of its immunotherapy drugs, which boost the body’s immune system, to fight a range of tumours.

“Under the deal with Advaxis, its so-called anti-PD-L1 drug MEDI4736 will be evaluated in a Phase I/II clinical study together with the U.S. company’s cancer vaccine ADXS-HPV in patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cervical cancer and HPV-associated head and neck cancer.”


A Vaccine May Cause Pancreatic Cancer to Respond to Immunotherapy

Editor’s note: Immunotherapy treatments, which boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, are a very promising area of research. However, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) tend not to respond to immunotherapy. New research shows that PDAC tumors could potentially be primed to respond better to immunotherapy by treating them with a vaccine and low-dose chemotherapy before surgery to remove the tumor.

“Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC) do not typically respond to immunotherapy, which limits treatment options for this cancer. By priming with a therapeutic vaccine and a low-dose chemotherapy combination prior to surgery, researchers converted PDACs into immunogenic cancers that may respond to immunotherapy, according to a study published in Cancer Immunology Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (produced in collaboration with the Cancer Research Institute).

” ‘The only curative treatment for pancreatic cancer is complete surgical resection, and approximately 80 percent of patients who undergo surgery relapse and die from the disease within five years, suggesting a need for effective strategies,’ said Lei Zheng, MD, PhD, assistant professor of oncology and surgery at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Skip Viragh Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Clinical Care at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.”

“In this clinical trial, pretreatment of PDAC patients with the vaccine GVAX and low doses of the chemotherapy cyclophosphamide caused the aggregation of immune cells inside the patients’ tumors, and many of these immune cells expressed proteins that may make these cancers amenable to immunotherapies such as PD-1 inhibitors.”


Agenus Brain Cancer Vaccine Nearly Doubles Survival Rate in Study

“Agenus Inc said its experimental cancer vaccine helped brain tumor patients live nearly twice as long compared with those who received standard of care treatment…

“The drug, when given in addition to standard treatment, extended median overall survival in 50 percent of newly-diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) patients to two years in a mid-stage study.

“GBM patients, who tend to succumb to the disease within one year, are usually treated with a combination of radiation and the chemotherapy drug temozolomide.”

Editor’s note: Prophage is a new “cancer vaccine” that might boost a patient’s own immune system to help fight cancer. Cells from each patient’s tumor are used to personalize Prophage specifically for the patient. This article discusses results from a clinical trial testing Prophage in volunteer patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Some of the patients in the trial were treated with Prophage in combination with standard radiation and chemotherapy treatment, while for comparison, others were treated only with standard radiation and chemo. The results showed that adding Prophage to standard treatment can help some patients live longer.


Planned Clinical Phase I Trial to Examine the Safety of Vaccine Against Gliomas Based on Mutant IDH1 in Human Patients

“Astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas are subtypes of a brain cancer called ‘glioma’. These incurable brain tumors arise from glial cells, a type of support cell found in the central nervous system. ‘Low-grade gliomas’, which grow comparatively slowly, spread in a diffuse manner across the brain and are very difficult to completely eliminate through surgery. In many cases, the effectiveness of treatments with chemotherapy and radiotherapy is very limited. Gliomas can develop into extremely aggressive glioblastomas.

“Low-grade gliomas have a particular feature in common: more than 70% of the cases exhibit the same gene mutation in tumor cells. An identical ‘typo’ in the DNA causes the exchange of a single, specific protein building block (amino acid) in an enzyme called isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1). As a result, most cancer cells do not follow the original building plan for the protein; at the 132nd position in the molecule’s sequence, they insert the amino acid histidine instead of arginine…

” ‘…we might be able to use a vaccine to alert the patient’s immune system to mutant IDH1, fighting the tumor without damaging healthy cells,’ [Prof. Dr. Michael Platten at the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research] explains.

“In collaboration with a team of physicians and scientists from Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ and the Universities of Mainz, Tübingen and Hamburg, Platten and his co-workers have now made the first successful step toward a vaccine that specifically targets the mutation in the tumor.

“In a clinical trial scheduled to start early next year, with the support of the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), they plan to examine the safety of the vaccine against gliomas based on mutant IDH1 in human patients, for the first time.”

Editor’s note: Early next year, oncologists will begin testing a newly developed cancer vaccine in a clinical trial with volunteer patients, in the hopes that it will help treat low-grade gliomas. Cancer vaccines are a type of immunotherapy treatment; they boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. The new vaccine takes advantage of a dysfunctional protein that is found in 70% of low-grade gliomas. The protein is called IDH1, and the vaccine is designed to alert the patient’s immune system to attack cells with mutant IDH1, potentially shrinking the brain tumor. So far, the vaccine has only been tested in mice, but the results were promising.


Survival Hope for Melanoma Patients Thanks to New Vaccine

“University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that a new trial vaccine offers the most promising treatment to date for melanoma that has spread, with increased patient survival rates and improved ability to stop or reverse the cancer.

“The vaccine, known as vaccinia melanoma cell lysate (VMCL), was given regularly as a treatment to 54 South Australian patients with advanced, inoperable melanoma over a 10-year period.”

Editor’s note: The cancer vaccine VMCL is a type of immunotherapy, which means it boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.


New Cancer Vaccine Approach Directly Targets Dendritic Cells

“Celldex Therapeutics announced today that final data from its Phase 1 study of CDX-1401 in solid tumors, including long-term patient follow-up, have been published inScience Translational Medicine. The data demonstrate robust antibody and T cell responses and evidence of clinical benefit in patients with very advanced cancers and suggest that CDX-1401 may predispose patients to better outcomes on subsequent therapy with checkpoint inhibitors. CDX-1401 is an off-the-shelf vaccine consisting of a fully human monoclonal antibody with specificity for the dendritic cell receptor DEC-205 linked to the NY-ESO-1 tumor antigen. The vaccine is designed to activate the patient’s immune system against cancers that express the tumor marker NY-ESO-1. While the function of NY-ESO-1 continues to be explored, references in the literature suggest that its expression might reflect the acquisition of properties that cancers find useful, such as immortality, self-renewal, migratory ability and the capacity to invade.”

Editor’s note: Cancer vaccines like CDX-1401 are a type of immunotherapy, meaning that they boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. CDX-1401 is able to attack tumor cells because the tumor cells have a molecule called NY-ESO-1 that CDX-1401 recognizes. We recently published a story about another treatment that is meant for patients whose tumors have NY-ESO-1. To learn more about how patients can use molecular testing to see if particular treatments might work for them, click here.


New Cancer Vaccine Approach Directly Targets Dendritic Cells

“Celldex Therapeutics announced today that final data from its Phase 1 study of CDX-1401 in solid tumors, including long-term patient follow-up, have been published inScience Translational Medicine. The data demonstrate robust antibody and T cell responses and evidence of clinical benefit in patients with very advanced cancers and suggest that CDX-1401 may predispose patients to better outcomes on subsequent therapy with checkpoint inhibitors. CDX-1401 is an off-the-shelf vaccine consisting of a fully human monoclonal antibody with specificity for the dendritic cell receptor DEC-205 linked to the NY-ESO-1 tumor antigen. The vaccine is designed to activate the patient’s immune system against cancers that express the tumor marker NY-ESO-1. While the function of NY-ESO-1 continues to be explored, references in the literature suggest that its expression might reflect the acquisition of properties that cancers find useful, such as immortality, self-renewal, migratory ability and the capacity to invade.”

Editor’s note: Cancer vaccines like CDX-1401 are a type of immunotherapy, meaning that they boost a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. CDX-1401 is able to attack tumor cells because the tumor cells have a molecule called NY-ESO-1 that CDX-1401 recognizes. We recently published a story about another treatment that is meant for patients whose tumors have NY-ESO-1. To learn more about how patients can use molecular testing to see if particular treatments might work for them, click here.