Cuba's Lung Cancer Vaccine: Hype or Hope?

Excerpt:

“Now that relations between the United States and Cuba are thawing, there has been a growing interest in forming medical partnerships.

“Of particular interest is a lung cancer vaccine called CimaVax, which was developed for non-small cell lung carcinoma. Available in Cuba since 2011, the vaccine has caught the attention of researchers and physicians not only in the United States but in other countries as well.

“But while intriguing, the question remains: Is it really a breakthrough in lung cancer treatment?”

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T Cells That Recognize HER2 Teceptor May Prevent HER2+ Breast Cancer Recurrence

“Recurrence of HER2-positive breast cancer after treatment may be due to a specific and possibly cancer-induced weakness in the patient’s immune system—a weakness that in principle could be corrected with a HER2-targeted vaccine—according to a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Results of the study show that T cells from patients whose breast cancer had recently recurred showed far weaker response to the HER2 receptor protein, compared to T cells from patients whose breast cancer had not recurred over a long period following treatment. The study, published in JAMA Oncology this week, suggests that patients with HER2-positive breast cancer—which accounts for roughly 20 percent of the 260,000 invasive breast cancers diagnosed in the US each year—might someday undergo immune status monitoring with blood tests before, during and after treatment, to allow physicians to gauge the risk of recurrence, and possibly to reduce that risk with therapies that boost anti-HER2 immunity.”


Bavarian Nordic Vaccine Helps Prolong Life in Prostate Cancer Trial

“An experimental therapeutic vaccine from Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic helped significantly extend survival in patients with advanced prostate cancer, according to results of a small early-stage trial conducted by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

“Shares of Bavarian Nordic closed up almost 12 percent in Copenhagen after the company released the data on Tuesday.

“The study involved 30 patients with prostate cancer that had failed to benefit from standard treatments that reduce levels of testosterone, the male hormone that fuels the cancer.

“Patients were treated with the company’s Prostvac vaccine, in addition to escalating doses of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co’s Yervoy, an approved injectable treatment for advanced melanoma that works by taking the brakes off the body’s immune system.”


New Cancer Vaccine Explored as Potential Treatment for Prostate Cancer Patients with Rising PSA

The gist: A new vaccine treatment  called Prostvac might help treat advanced prostate cancer patients whose tumors are resistant to hormone therapy and who have had either surgery or radiation. Prostvac boosts a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer.  A small clinical trial showed that Prostvac is safe and can be given to patients earlier. More research is needed to see just how well the vaccine works.

“Aiming to increase treatment options for prostate cancer patients who have an early relapse, investigators from a multi-institutional cooperative group — including Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey — have demonstrated that a vaccine therapy that stimulates the body’s own immune defenses can be given safely and earlier in the course of prostate cancer progression.

“As part of a Phase II clinical trial, adult patients with advanced prostate cancer (as evidenced by two rising prostate-specific antigen or PSA values and no visible metastasis) whose cancer is resistant to hormone therapy and had either surgery or radiation were recruited from member institutions in the ECOG-ACRIN Cancer Research Group. In their work, published in the current online edition of European Urology, ECOG-ACRIN investigators examined two different experimental treatment options.

“In step one, patients were treated with PROSTVAC-V/TRICOM and PROSTVAC-F/TRICOM. PROSTVAC-V is derived from a vaccinia virus that was used for many years to vaccinate against smallpox. This virus is modified to produce a PSA protein that helps focus the body’s immune response to the PSA in the prostate tumor. In addition, it is modified to produce three other proteins that help increase an immune cell’s ability to destroy its target (TRICOM). PROSTVAC-F is made from the fowlpox virus, which is found in birds and not known to cause any human disease. It contains the same genetic material as PROSTAC-V, but is given multiple times to further boost the body’s immune system.”


Breast Cancer Vaccine Shows Promise in Slowing Progress

The gist: A treatment that boosts the immune system to fight cancer has shown promise for breast cancer patients. The treatment is a cancer vaccine known as the MAM-A DNA vaccine. It was tested in volunteer patients in a clinical trial. It is meant to treat people whose tumors have a protein called mammaglobin-A. The trial showed that the MAM-A DNA vaccine is safe, and may even slow cancer progression. Further studies will show just how effective it might be.

“An initial safety trial of a breast cancer vaccine has proven safe, with preliminary results suggesting the vaccine will slow cancer progression.

“The vaccine, which is being developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is meant for patients with breast cancers that express a protein found only in breast tissue called mammaglobin-A.

“Tumors express a very high level of the protein, and research shows it’s present in up to 80% of breast cancers. That means if the vaccine makes it to market, it could potentially be beneficial to a very high number of breast cancer patients.

“The vaccine works by making the immune system focus and destroy cells with the mammaglobin-A protein. In a recent trial to test the vaccine’s safety published in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research, the researchers tested the vaccine in 14 breast cancer patients with mammaglobin-A.


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.


UPDATE 1-Amgen Melanoma Drug Fails to Improve Overall Survival Rates

“Amgen Inc said its experimental drug to treat a deadly form of skin cancer did not significantly improve overall survival rates in patients enrolled in a late-stage study.

“The company said the drug met the study’s main goal of shrinking tumors, as it had previously reported, but did not meet the secondary goal of improving overall survival in patients with melanoma.”

Editor’s note: Earlier results from this trial showed that the drug (called T-Vec) improved “progression free survival,” which refers to the length of time before a patient’s tumor begins growing again. Now, T-Vec has been shown not to affect overall survival times.


Amgen Vaccine Triggers Immune Response in Advanced Melanoma -Study

“An experimental Amgen Inc cancer vaccine used to treat advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, proved effective in a late-stage study in shrinking tumors in a way that suggests the drug triggered the intended systemic immune response, according to data presented on Friday.

“The vaccine shrank tumors that were directly injected with the drug and tumors around the body that were not injected, according to the data.

“The drug, talimogene laherparepvec, also known as T-vec, is an engineered virus designed to replicate inside the injected tumor, killing cancer cells there, as well as prime the immune system to attack other cancer cells around body.”


Cancer Vaccine Could Use Immune System to Fight Tumors

“Cincinnati Cancer Center (CCC) and UC Cancer Institute researchers have found that a vaccine, targeting tumors that produce a certain protein and receptor responsible for communication between cells and the body’s immune system, could initiate the immune response to fight cancer.

“These findings, published in the online edition of the journalGene Therapy, build on previously reported research and could lead to new treatments for cancer.”

Editor’s Note: This cancer vaccine (interleukin-15, or IL-15) is currently being given to patients in several clinical trials for several different types of cancer. Visit clinicaltrials.gov to learn more.