Ovarian cancer vaccine shows promising results in human study

Immunotherapy has gained ground against a stubborn opponent: ovarian cancer. A personalized cancer vaccine is safe an...

Posted: Apr 12, 2018 5:38 AM
Updated: Apr 12, 2018 5:38 AM

Immunotherapy has gained ground against a stubborn opponent: ovarian cancer. A personalized cancer vaccine is safe and may lengthen the lives of ovarian cancer patients, a small clinical trial found.

The research, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, showed "significantly higher" overall survival at two years among patients who received the vaccine, compared with patients who did not.

85% of ovarian cancer patients relapse after treatment

"Personalized vaccines" inspire immune systems to fight cancer, a trial found

Ovarian cancer is a "silent killer" because often it goes unnoticed until it is diagnosed at a late stage. Treated with surgery followed by chemotherapy, most patients -- 85% -- relapse and ultimately develop resistance to the chemo. At this point, they run out of treatment options.

Still, scientists are hopeful based on the fact that a subset of patients shows an immune response to their cancer. Generally, these patients have better survival rates than those whose immune systems don't react in the same way.

A vaccine, then, might be able to trigger and boost the immune system and increase the survival rates of patients, said Dr. Lana Kandalaft, senior author of the new study and an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

Personalized medicine

Testing this hypothesis, Kandalaft and her colleagues created "personalized" vaccines for 25 patients diagnosed with advanced recurrent ovarian cancer. The women had recurrent advanced epithelial ovarian cancer, which has an average five-year survival rate of 17%, according to the American Cancer Society.

The scientists made each unique vaccine using a patient's tumor (stored and preserved before surgery) and dendritic cells from her blood.

Within the immune system, dendritic cells act as clever spies. Their mission is to identify foreign invaders lurking in the shadowy interfaces between our bodies and the environment: the lining of our airways, for example, and the surface of our intestines. Once they discover a virus or a dangerous toxin, dendritic cells will capture and display fragments of the invader on their surfaces and then travel deep into the lymph nodes, where the immune system's killer T cells reside.

Here, a simple introduction -- a knowing glance among friends -- takes place. The newly accessorized dendritic cells trigger the T cells to launch an attack in an attempt to destroy the invaders.

For the study, some patients received the personalized vaccine alone, and others received it in combination with either one or two chemo drugs (bevacizumab and cyclophosphamide).

"The patients who received the vaccine mounted an immune response against their own tumors," Kandalaft said in a statement. She described the immune response as "an increased number of T cells which were specific to the tumor and were able to kill tumors."

'Promising'

Each of the 25 patients received, on average, 16 vaccine shots over the course of the study and none experienced severe side effects from the vaccine.

Overall two-year survival was highest among responsive study patients who received the vaccine and two chemo drugs: Seventy-eight percent of vaccinated patients who also received the chemo drugs survived two years, compared with just 44% of patients who received the drugs but no vaccine.

Still, one vaccine-only patient remained in remission for five years after the study; prior to the study, her cancer had recurred twice after chemotherapy.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said the new study amounts to "good science" that "clearly justifies a larger clinical trial."

However, Brawley, who was not involved in the research, remains cautious of this "designer vaccine."

"Survival analysis is prone to some biases, which can mislead even the most experienced of clinical trialists," he said. The public "often wants to pass up better-proven conventional therapy for an unknown in immunotherapy."

Overall, Brawley is hopeful for immunotherapy as a treatment for ovarian cancer. "This methodology has been looked at in prostate cancer and may be useful in other diseases."

Going forward, Kandalaft and her colleagues will be pursuing larger studies of these vaccines. The results of the current study, designed to address safety and funded by National Institutes of Health, were "promising, albeit preliminary," she said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312926

Reported Deaths: 7226
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21474257
Hinds20271414
Harrison17796309
Rankin13561278
Jackson13404246
Madison10062217
Lee9961173
Jones8364163
Forrest7644152
Lauderdale7178240
Lowndes6366144
Lamar621286
Lafayette6168118
Washington5322133
Bolivar4796132
Oktibbeha461198
Panola4556105
Pearl River4494145
Marshall4396103
Warren4376121
Pontotoc419372
Monroe4094133
Union408876
Neshoba4024176
Lincoln3947110
Hancock377086
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332384
Pike3294105
Scott315273
Alcorn311568
Yazoo310669
Itawamba299377
Copiah296065
Simpson294488
Coahoma294279
Tippah287668
Prentiss279360
Marion268780
Adams266082
Leake265573
Wayne262341
Grenada260186
Covington256381
George246748
Newton245961
Winston226881
Tishomingo225567
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone181833
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun169832
Yalobusha163336
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125838
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104726
Claiborne102230
Benton99025
Humphreys96133
Kemper95328
Franklin83423
Quitman80016
Choctaw76018
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530011

Reported Deaths: 10946
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763591519
Mobile40875804
Madison34676503
Tuscaloosa25717451
Montgomery24308585
Shelby23389248
Baldwin21093307
Lee15844169
Calhoun14481313
Morgan14281279
Etowah13813353
Marshall12203222
Houston10553280
Elmore10036205
Limestone9952150
Cullman9647193
St. Clair9634239
Lauderdale9413241
DeKalb8821185
Talladega8210175
Walker7222277
Autauga6914108
Jackson6803111
Blount6645136
Colbert6291134
Coffee5503118
Dale4826111
Russell440038
Chilton4263111
Franklin425482
Covington4120117
Tallapoosa4006152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3544151
Clarke350861
Marion3111100
Pike310177
Lawrence299898
Winston273772
Bibb260463
Marengo249164
Geneva248777
Pickens233760
Barbour230757
Hale222577
Butler215869
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184345
Randolph179941
Monroe177040
Washington167039
Macon158650
Clay155956
Crenshaw151957
Cleburne148741
Lamar141834
Lowndes138553
Wilcox127029
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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