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Vaccines for Ovarian and Breast Cancer in Early Trials
Date:1/11/2008

Activating body's immune system should fight tumors, researchers say

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Therapeutic vaccines to fight ovarian and breast cancer are in the first stage of clinical trials to determine their safety and effectiveness, researchers report.

The vaccine for ovarian cancer, developed by Dr. George Coukos, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's division of gynecologic oncology, is designed to "re-educate" the patient's immune system cells to destroy cancer cells.

"This trial is a phase I/II trial that is just getting started," Coukos said during a presentation Thursday evening at a meeting of the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, in Greenwich, Conn. The trial will include some 30 women with ovarian cancer.

The vaccine makes use of the patients' own tumor cells, which are then put into the patients' own dendritic cells. Dendritic cells are responsible for initiating the body's immune response, Coukos said.

In this trial, two new drugs -- called DCVax-L and DCVax-L primed -- are being used to aid in growing new immune cells. The trial is also testing which of the drugs is most effective.

The "re-educated" dendritic cells are then injected back into the patient at intervals spanning as long as three years, according to Coukos. Once in the body, these cell are designed to attack the cancer cells.

Using this therapy in mice produced dramatic results, Coukos said. "Typically, the translation from mouse to human is always disappointing," he said. "We are hoping, based on other clinical data, there will be a good response."

By creating individualized ovarian cancer vaccines composed of a patient's own cells, Coukos believes that his tailored approach will be effective. "We actually use the patient's own tumor and the patient's own blood. So it's not one-type-of-therapy-fits-all. Everybody gets their own individualized treatment," he said.
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