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Promising Results Arise from Phase 2 Vaccine Study for Mesothelioma

The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation (Meso Foundation) is optimistic about the Phase 2 results of the WT1 vaccine. The Meso Foundation had funded part of the Phase 1 portion of this study, the results of which prompted the Department of Defense to also award it a large grant.

On October 14, the SELLAS Life Sciences Group, a biotech company leading a Phase 2 study of the WT1 vaccine, released the study’s promising data.

The company reported that survival of patients receiving the vaccine rose to a median of 39 months compared with a median of 18 months survival of patients in the control arm. Patients receiving the vaccine also saw a doubling in progression-free survival from 5.5 months to 11.5 months.

Dr. Marjorie Zauderer, MD, MS, FACP, the principal investigator of the mesothelioma study, is an attending physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.

“These findings are provocative and certainly support further investigation of the WT1 vaccine. We are hopeful that we will be able to confirm this preliminary result in a phase III clinical trial,” said Dr. Zauderer.

WT1, short for Wilms’ tumor 1, is a protein highly expressed in mesothelioma cells (as well as many other cancers), but absent in normal cells. This characteristic makes it a great target for immunotherapy. While normally the immune system largely ignores the WT1 proteins, the purpose of the WT1 vaccine is to instead teach the immune system to attack it, thus killing the cancer cells.

Mesothelioma is a malignant tumor of the lining of the lung, abdomen, or heart known to be caused by exposure to asbestos. With the life expectancy of less than one year after diagnosis, medical experts consider it one of the most aggressive and deadly of all cancers. An estimated one-third of those who develop mesothelioma were exposed while serving in the Navy or working in shipyards. Currently, few treatment options exist. There is no cure.

The Meso Foundation is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating mesothelioma and easing the suffering caused by this cancer. The Meso Foundation actively seeks philanthropic support to fund mesothelioma research; provide patient support services and education; and advocate Congress for increased federal funding for mesothelioma research. The Meso Foundation is the only non-government funder of peer-reviewed scientific research to develop life-saving treatments for this extremely aggressive cancer. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $9 million to research. More information is available at

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