John Theurer Cancer Center is one of the 17 centers in the United States that has participated in a multicenter international Phase II study on a personalized vaccine against cancer. The researchers are analyzing the combined effect of this vaccine and pembrolizumab immunotherapy in the patients in which surgery is performed to remove melanoma but there are chances of its recurrence.
The team expects that the use of this vaccine will strengthen the immune system, leading to an increase in its response towards immunotherapy, and a decrease in the risk of recurrence of cancer. This novel vaccine is developed by comparing the normal DNA sequence of patients with that of their tumor using a revolutionary and novel gene-based technology.
By using this comparison, the team recognizes the tumor-specific DNA changes. That are later on made into mRNA constructs for its use as a vaccine against cancer. Pembrolizumab is included in a group of drugs, named as checkpoint inhibitors. This class of drug has brought a change in melanoma treatment.
It functions by hindering the activity of PD1, a protein that is normally the reason behind the collapse of the immune system. This protein is used by PD1 cells for escaping the immune system, so hindering the activity of this protein will allow the immune system to look for cancerous cells and kill them.
Andrew L. Pecora, the study leading author, is a well-known oncologist/hematologist at John Theurer Cancer Center and working as an associate dean at Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. He said that Pembrolizumab and other checkpoint inhibitors have been known to be effective for reducing the recurrence of the disease among patients in which surgery was performed for removal of high-risk melanoma.
But it was observed that sooner or later cancer comes back in these patients. Thus, a reduction in the rate of relapse will facilitate meeting this significant unfulfilled medical requirement of the patients. In this Phase II of the clinical trial, the research team has analyzed a vaccine called mRNA-4157.
The ModernaTX, Inc. develops this personalized vaccine and provides it to patients for initiating the immune response. John Theurer Cancer Center has also performed Phase I clinical trial for this vaccine, the results of which were publicized at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
The findings of this study showed that this vaccine elicited an immune response in patients and was well-tolerated by them. Whereas, clinical responses were observed on giving mRNA-4157 in combination with pembrolizumab.
The John Theurer Cancer Center’s chair and executive director – Andre Goy stated that the center is committed to the provision of the latest medical advances to its patients. Additionally, the John Theurer Cancer Center also promotes clinical investigation to bring improvements in cancer care.
Hackensack University Medical Center is also making its contribution to improving cancer care by providing cutting-edge cancer treatment options. The researchers of the study expect that the provision of personalized cancer vaccine using gene-based technology will not only improve immune responses of the patients but also lead to a reduction in the risk of relapse in the case of patients with melanoma.