A recent study published in Nature Medicine on July 29, 2012, reports on a new therapeutic vaccine for advanced renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) that increases survival and improves disease control in certain patients.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates 720 new cases of kidney cancer will be diagnosed in Connecticut (64,770 in the U.S.) in the year 2012. Of these, an estimated 140 deaths from kidney cancer will occur (13,570 in the U.S.). Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults.
Therapeutic cancer vaccines are thought to be efficient (extending survival) and have good safety and tolerability profiles. However, developing cancer vaccines has been difficult because there are still many unknowns, such as appropriate tumor antigens to target or biomarkers to predict patient’s response to therapy.
Researchers used samples from RCC patients that express a certain marker (HLA-A antigens) on their cancer cells. They found multiple specific tumor antigens which provided the targets to develop a multi-target vaccine. The vaccine (currently called IMA901) induces an immune response in RCC patients that express these tumor antigens. This vaccine-induced immune response is associated with clinical benefit. Most vaccine trials in cancer so far have not shown such an association.
The vaccine was tested in a small patient population (Phase 2 clinical study). Results of this study showed that patients receiving IMA901 along with single-dose cyclophosphamide (a drug currently used to treat various types of cancer) had prolonged survival. An additional clinical study in a larger group of patients (Phase 3) is ongoing and will determine the efficacy of IMA901.
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