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Immune-Based Lymphoma Treatment Shows Promise
Date:5/31/2009

Similar patient-tailored approaches may work for skin, stomach and other cancers, researchers say

SUNDAY, May 31 (HealthDay News) -- In a new study, patients with follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma who received a vaccine made from their own cancer cells went more than 44 months before relapsing, compared to only 30.6 months for those who didn't get the vaccine.

The vaccine trial was one of several studies from the new frontier of "personalized medicine" presented Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, in Orlando, Fla.

The approach aims to hit cancer hard by tailoring treatments to the patient's own genetics or disease, among other factors.

The lymphoma study differs from other vaccine trials in that the tool was patient-specific, study author Dr. Stephen Schuster, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, explained at a Sunday news conference.

The findings could signal a whole new direction in how vaccines are used against cancer, experts said.

"The novelty of the vaccines is that they were individualized to each patient, and that they were directed against a cancer-specific target," said Dr. Louis Weiner, director of Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. "Many vaccines are directed against cancer-associated targets and always run the risk of damage to normal cells."

But the lymphoma vaccine is "almost like an immune-system 'smart bomb,'" Weiner noted. "It only goes after malignant cells, and that's very attractive."

For this phase III trial, 76 patients who had been in remission for at least six months following chemotherapy were injected with BiovaxID, a vaccine engineered from cancerous tissues drawn from each individual patient. The mixture also contained compounds designed to heighten the effect of the vaccine.

These individualized vaccines took about three mo
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