Vaccine 'reprogrammes' pancreatic cancer to respond to treatment

18 June 2014

A new vaccine is able to trigger the growth of immune cell nodules within pancreatic tumours, which means they are reprogrammed to make them more vulnerable to immunotherapies, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Centre.

The research team tested the vaccine - known as GVAX - on 39 patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAC), the most common form of pancreatic cancer.

PDACs do not typically generate an immune response from the body, however, the vaccine is able to “reprogramme” tumours so that they include cancer-fighting immune system T cells.

GVAX is made up of irradiated tumour cells that have been altered to recruit immune cells to fit the cancer. The vaccine was combined with an immune-modulator drug called cyclophosphamide, which targets a specific type of immune cell.

According to Dr Elizabeth Jaffee, lead author of the study, the vaccine has the potential to convert other types of tumours to a state where immunotherapies are more effective.

She said: "We've tested immunotherapies that target T cells and have found a ten to 30 per cent response in cancers that naturally have the ability to trigger immune system responses, but there are few options for the other 70 per cent of patients who barely or never respond to immunotherapies."

Posted by Philip Briggs


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