August 2, 2006

CONTACT: Bridget Donaghue
(215) 349-8368
bridget.donaghue@uphs.upenn.edu


University of Pennsylvania Health System in Pursuit of Lung Cancer Vaccine

(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 cancer.

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.

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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.


This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/aug06/lungvacc.htm