(Philadelphia, PA) - Researchers at the University
of Pennsylvania have initiated a clinical trial directed
at developing a better treatment for lung cancer. For patients who
undergo surgery for their lung cancer, the treatment involves taking
the tumor that was removed and processing it to make a vaccine.
The lung cancer vaccine, developed by AVAX Technologies, is based
on vaccine technology that has been shown promising results in patients
with metastatic (stage III and IV) melanoma with no serious side
effects observed to date. The goal of this vaccine is to decrease
the high recurrence rate that can be seen after surgery for lung
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer for both men and women,
exceeding the combined mortalities for breast cancer, colon cancer,
prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Even patients fortunate
enough to have their cancer detected at the earliest stages (I and
II) of lung cancer where surgical resection may be an option, there
are high recurrence rates. With surgery alone, the recurrence rate
can be as high as 20 -40% for stage I disease, the earliest stage.
For stage II lung cancer, the recurrence rate is usually in the
40-60% range. The prognosis is significantly worse for the more
advanced stages, those less amenable to surgical resection. Recurrence
outside the lung is the most common and lethal form of relapse.
In an effort to decrease this recurrence rate, administration of
postoperative chemotherapy has been studied. For the very earliest
form stage I cancer the toxicity of chemotherapy is often thought
to outweigh the benefits, and recently data emerged that chemotherapy
is less effective than originally believed for the more advanced
form of stage I lung cancer. Despite many advances in surgical technique
and postoperative care, there remains a pressing need for better
systemic treatments for lung cancer patients.
The recurrence of cancers at distant sites is a reflection of the
cancer’s ability to evade the arm of the patient’s immune
system that is normally responsible to preventing cancer cells from
being able to grow. Joseph Friedberg, MD, principal
investigator on the study states, “The idea is to take the
patient’s own tumor cells, inactivate them and treat them
with a chemical, called a hapten, which may make them more stimulatory
to the immune system. Hopefully this will allow the immune system
to identify and destroy the patient’s own cancer cells that
have escaped the lung, addressing the defect in the immune system
that has allowed cancer to spread in the first place.” The
endpoint of this initial trial will include safety and a measure
of immunological efficacy known as Delayed Type Hypersensitivity
which will be assessed in response to the patient’s own inactivated
lung cancer cells. In previous melanoma trials, AVAX has shown that
the development of a positive DTH response to a patient’s
own tumor cells increased the likelihood that the patient would
have clinical benefit. These results have been published in prominent
oncology journals. Participation in the vaccine trial does not preclude
administration of conventional chemotherapy for patients who wish
to also receive this type of systemic treatment after surgery.
Editor's Notes: Dr. Friedberg has no financial
interest in AVAX Technologies, Inc.
Individuals that would like to learn more about how to participate
in this study can call the Research Coordinator, Jennifer Beecham,
at (215) 662-9647.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise
dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical
research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists
of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in
1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of
Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt
of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S.News &
World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical
schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the
School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education
and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and
leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three
hospitals, all of which have received numerous national patient-care
honors [Hospital of theUniversity of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania
Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical
Center]; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network;
two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.