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
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)
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