Researchers have developed a personalized vaccine to help patients diagnosed with ovarian cancer build a stronger defense against tumors compared to standard therapy, boosting their survival rates.
The immunotherapy vaccine was tested in a preliminary clinical trial, used alongside chemotherapy and an immune-boosting agent, The Washington Post reports. The experimental treatment joins several approaches together in an innovative cancer treatment method.
The treatment uses a person’s immune cells as a T-cell training force, making it an immunotherapy. But it also uses specific proteins in a patient’s tumor as kind of homing beacons, making it a targeted therapy. And since patients’ cells are taken from and returned to them, the treatment is personalized.
This therapy harvests a class of immune-boosting cells called dendritic cells. Using cells taken from a patient’s tumor, scientists trained the dendritic cells to recognize and attach a specific kind of malignant tumor. When the engineered cells were returned to the patient, the cells passed on their training to the immune system’s T-cells that kill foreign bodies.
Among the ten women with ovarian cancer who received injections of the personalized vaccine, combined with medications, eight of them showed a strong immune system response, and remained alive after two years. By comparison, 56 patients who got standard chemotherapy only saw half still living after two years. Of ten patients who took one of the medications with the personalized vaccine, only 30% survived to two years.
The study’s main goal was to test the safety of the vaccine when combined with other drugs. Janos L. Tanyi, a gynecologist at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author, said that the vaccine has proven to be “so safe it’s unbelievable.” Tanyi added that the same approach may be applied in fighting solid tumors in other organs.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of death due to cancer in the United States, and remains the deadliest of gynecological cancers.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.