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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.

Confirmed Cases: 66646

Reported Deaths: 1874
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5599118
DeSoto363230
Harrison249836
Madison241464
Rankin227633
Jackson226942
Jones188558
Forrest177856
Washington164641
Lee142839
Lauderdale140792
Neshoba128592
Lamar120214
Oktibbeha111838
Bolivar110834
Warren108932
Lowndes107437
Panola105412
Sunflower102425
Scott99820
Lafayette96416
Copiah95028
Pike92836
Leflore92562
Holmes89048
Grenada84321
Yazoo82912
Pontotoc8218
Lincoln80941
Simpson79530
Leake78625
Monroe77853
Wayne76421
Coahoma74312
Tate72028
Marshall6889
Marion65720
Union62716
Winston62016
Adams61725
Covington61213
George5595
Newton54211
Pearl River54038
Tallahatchie53010
Attala52125
Walthall49819
Chickasaw45920
Noxubee45311
Alcorn4195
Calhoun4179
Prentiss41710
Tishomingo4095
Claiborne40413
Smith40413
Clay39413
Hancock38814
Jasper3879
Tippah36013
Itawamba35810
Tunica3337
Clarke32625
Montgomery3213
Lawrence3197
Yalobusha31310
Humphreys29111
Quitman2621
Carroll26111
Greene24111
Kemper23214
Perry2327
Jefferson Davis2316
Amite2306
Webster22812
Wilkinson20513
Sharkey1975
Jefferson1957
Stone1944
Benton1431
Choctaw1334
Franklin1242
Issaquena261
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 94827

Reported Deaths: 1674
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson12969243
Mobile9836206
Montgomery6609148
Madison531433
Tuscaloosa419073
Unassigned356061
Baldwin350224
Shelby326035
Marshall313035
Lee266045
Morgan236918
Etowah210431
DeKalb179813
Calhoun176113
Elmore171538
Walker152064
Houston138612
Russell13582
St. Clair132817
Dallas131823
Limestone131813
Franklin127020
Cullman122012
Colbert117113
Lauderdale115717
Autauga108621
Escambia107516
Talladega100913
Jackson9684
Tallapoosa85479
Chambers84038
Dale82723
Blount7884
Chilton7886
Butler75836
Coffee7566
Covington73420
Pike7037
Clarke6629
Barbour5735
Lowndes57124
Marion57024
Marengo55315
Hale47326
Bullock46311
Winston45011
Perry4404
Bibb4265
Wilcox42610
Monroe4194
Randolph39610
Pickens3929
Conecuh38810
Washington38612
Sumter36018
Lawrence3481
Macon33414
Crenshaw3143
Choctaw28112
Cherokee2707
Henry2593
Geneva2570
Clay2525
Greene25011
Lamar2202
Fayette2045
Cleburne1261
Coosa1012
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