“Immunotherapy is a fast growing area of cancer research. It involves developing therapies that use a patient’s own immune system to fight and kill cancer. Moffitt Cancer Center is working on a new vaccine that would help early-stage breast cancer patients who have HER2 positive disease.
“The HER2 protein is overexpressed in nearly 25 percent of all breast cancer tumors and is associated with aggressive disease and poor prognosis. Moffitt researchers, led by physician-scientist Brian J. Czerniecki, M.D., Ph.D., have previously shown that immune cells are less able to recognize and target cancer cells that express HER2 as breast cancer progresses into a more advanced and invasive stage. This suggests that strategies that can restimulate the immune system to recognize and target HER2 early during cancer development may be effective treatment options.”
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A promising stem cell-based immunotherapy against melanomas has been fast-tracked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), based on previous clinical trials showing that it may double 5-year survival rates to about 50%. The upcoming phase III clinical trial will accept 250 people with melanomas that have spread; enrollment is expected to begin in early 2014. This experimental immunotherapy uses a mixture of a person’s own cells: cancer stem cells from his or her tumor, which are thought to be behind the spread of tumors, and immune system cells from the blood, which learn to recognize the cancer stem cells. These cancer stem cells are inactivated to keep them from forming new tumors, then the mixture is injected back into the patient. The reintroduced immune system cells then focus an attack on the cancer stem cells that remain in the tumor, which helps keep them from spreading.
On the strength of two encouraging phase II clinical trials, California Stem Cell, Inc. has asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a phase III trial of an immunotherapy drug to treat melanoma. The treatment involves injecting people’s tumors with cells from their own immune system. Called dendritic cells, these cells alert the rest of the immune system to attack. To hone the attack on tumors, the dendritic cells were loaded with cells that had been taken from people’s own tumors and then killed. The new trial will include 250 people.
“Systemic administration of IL-12p70 has demonstrated clinical activity in cancer patients, but dose-limiting toxicities have hindered its incorporation in vaccine formulations. Here, we report on the immunological and clinical outcomes upon vaccination with CD40L/IFN-γ–matured, IL-12p70–producing DCs.”
“Many cancers, including melanoma, exclusively express constitutive proteasomes (cPs) and are unable to express immunoproteasomes (iPs). In contrast, mature DCs used for immunotherapy exclusively express iPs. Since proteasomes generate peptides presented by HLA class I molecules, we hypothesized that mature melanoma antigen–loaded DCs engineered to process antigens through cPs would be superior inducers of antimelanoma immunity in vivo.”