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Study finds promise in combined transplant/vaccine therapy for high-risk leukemia
Date:8/24/2009

BOSTON--Two of the most powerful approaches to cancer treatment -- a stem cell transplant and an immune system-stimulating vaccine -- appear to reinforce each other in patients with an aggressive, hard-to-control form of leukemia, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists have found.

In a study to be published in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Aug. 24, the researchers report that patients with high-risk acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or advanced myelodysplasia (a blood disorder) who received a cancer vaccine shortly after a stem cell transplant not only had few complications but also mounted a strong immune system attack on the disease. Particularly encouraging was the fact that rates of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a potentially severe aftereffect of immune system-based therapies, were no higher than with stem cell transplants alone.

The key to the technique's success was the timing of the vaccine, explained the study's co-senior author, Glenn Dranoff, MD, of Dana-Farber. "In previous studies that have combined stem cell transplantation with a cancer vaccine, the vaccine wasn't given until a significant amount of time after the transplant," said Dranoff. "In research with animal models, we found the approach works best if the vaccine follows the transplant by just a few weeks."

The study involved 28 patients with advanced myelodysplasia or high-risk AML ("high-risk" meaning their disease did not respond to standard chemotherapy treatment). Twenty-four underwent a transplant of hematopoietic (blood-making) stem cells: after receiving chemotherapy to reduce the number of diseased blood-forming cells in their bone marrow, they received an infusion of healthy stem cells from a matched donor. The transplanted cells settled in the bone marrow, where they began to regenerate patients' blood supply, including white blood cells and other agents that constitute the immune sy
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Contact: Bill Schaller
william_schaller@dfci.harvard.edu
617-632-5357
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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