Sci­en­tists re­port promis­ing new tai­lor-made melanoma vac­cines

The China Post - - LIFE -

Ex­per­i­men­tal tai­lor- made vac­cines tar­get­ing melanoma pa­tients’ in­di­vid­ual ge­netic mu­ta­tions have given en­cour­ag­ing pre­lim­i­nary re­sults, re­searchers have said.

The clin­i­cal test on three pa­tients with this form of ag­gres­sive skin can­cer in an ad­vanced stage is un­prece­dented in the United States.

The vac­cines ap­pear to boost the num­ber and di­ver­sity of T-cells, which are key to the hu­man im­mune sys­tem and attack tu­mors, re­searchers said in a re­port pub­lished Thurs­day in the jour­nal Science.

Melanoma ac­counts for around five per­cent of all new can­cer cases di­ag­nosed in the United States, but that pro­por­tion is ris­ing.

Last year 76,000 Amer­i­cans were di­ag­nosed with melanoma and nearly 10,000 died of it, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Can­cer In­sti­tute.

The vac­cines were de­vel­oped by se­quenc­ing the genomes of the three pa­tients’ tu­mors and com­par­ing them to sam­ples of healthy tis­sue to iden­tify pro­teins that had mu­tated. Th­ese are known as neoanti­gens, and are unique to can­cer cells.

The re­searchers then used com­puter pro­grams and lab­o­ra­tory tri­als to pre­dict and test the neoanti­gens most likely to trig­ger a strong im­mune re­sponse and thus be added to the vac­cine.

The vac­cine was ad­min­is­tered to pa­tients whose tu­mors had been re­moved but with­out pre­vent­ing can­cer cells from spread­ing to the lymph nodes, which is an in­di­ca­tion that the melanoma is go­ing to reap­pear.

The ini­tial clin­i­cal re­sults have been good enough to start a phase 1 clin­i­cal trial ap­proved by the U.S. Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion on six pa­tients.

If this broader test proves the vac­cines work, it would pave the way for im­munother­apy that pre­vents melanoma from resur­fac­ing in pa­tients.

The study was led by Gerald Linette, an on­col­o­gist at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton in St. Louis, Mis­souri.

Although the test was pre­lim­i­nary, it was based on the breadth and di­ver­sity of the T-cells, mean­ing th­ese vac­cines are promis­ing as a ther­apy, he said.

But the re­searchers cau­tioned that it was too early to say if th­ese vac­cines would con­tinue to work long-term.

None of the three pa­tients tested so far have suf­fered ma­jor neg­a­tive side ef­fects.

Im­munother­apy, al­ready used with suc­cess against melanoma, is a promis­ing new strat­egy against very ag­gres­sive can­cer cells for which there is cur­rently no ef­fec­tive treat­ment.

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