An experimental cancer vaccine has shown promise after three lymphoma patients went into remission after receiving the drug.
The vaccine, which is injected directly into the tumor, teaches the body’s immune system to destroy it. Moreover, other cancer cells will also be hunted down.
Eleven patients were tested and some of them were in full remission for months and even years.
Results have been so encouraging that experts believe that other cancers could soon be treated as well including those of the breast, neck, and head.
While called a vaccine, the treatment doesn’t prevent cancer. What it actually does is train the subject’s own immune system to fight the disease.
Doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York injected a stimulant into the tumor which causes immune cells called dendritic cells to be recruited.
T cells, a type of white blood cell, were then instructed to kill cancerous cells throughout the body. All the while, non-cancerous cells were spared, said the study published in Nature Medicine.
Three of the patients who were tested went into remission as a result of the treatment with the initial tumors shrinking along with others throughout their body.
Those who suffer from lymphoma have abnormal lymphocytes (the white blood cells that help fight infection) that multiply out of control.
Most lymphocytes collect in the armpits, neck, or groin, though they can also be found in other parts of the body.
Dr. Joshua Brody, the lead author, and director of the Lymphoma Immunotherapy Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute said: “The in situ vaccine approach has broad implications for multiple types of cancer.”
In testing done in mice, the vaccine significantly increased the success of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy.
This type of immunotherapy is still being researched but it works by blocking portions of the body’s immune system where cancerous cells can hide and avoid detection.
The encouraging results prompted additional trials in March. Patients suffering from lymphoma, breast, and head and neck cancers underwent a clinical trial to test the vaccine combined with checkpoint blockade drugs.
The researchers said that such a combination was at least three times more powerful than administering either treatment alone.
The success of the treatment so far has left researchers “extremely optimistic” about its effectiveness in future trials. They even referred to the tumor after treatment as a “cancer vaccine factory.”
They are also testing the effects of the treatment on liver and ovarian cancer.
Speaking to CNBC, Dr. Eric Jacobsen, clinical director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s lymphoma program who was not involved in the study, called the results exciting but qualified that statement with a call for more research as this was a small study.
Jacobsen said: “It’s definitely proof of concept, but larger studies are definitely needed and additional strategies to try to get more than three out of 11 patients to respond.”
Other experts who were not involved in the study were also quick to praise the results.
Dr. Silvia Formenti, chairwoman of radiation oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian, said: “it’s really promising.”
She told CNBC: “And the fact you get not only responses in treated areas, but areas outside the field [of treatment with radiation] is really significant.”
“Little Boy With Cancer Says Sorry To His Mother Before Losing His Battle With Cancer”