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Promising Vaccines for Lymphoma, Melanoma

Conquest - Fall 2009

Serving up a personalized coctail

In a Phase III multicenter clinical trial, a lymphoma vaccine — custom-made for each patient — extended the time the disease remained in remission.

Sattva Neelapu, M.D.

“This is the first vaccine in lymphoma that’s shown a positive result, improving time to relapse,” says Sattva Neelapu, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma and principal investigator at M. D. Anderson.

A likely key to success is that only patients in complete remission or with minimal residual disease after chemotherapy were vaccinated, according to Neelapu.

“With lymphoma, you can get patients to a minimal disease state with chemotherapy and then bring in the vaccine to mop up remaining cancer cells. That’s the strategy, and it should work for other cancers,” says Larry W. Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., who invented the vaccine while at the National Cancer Institute and is now chair of M. D. Anderson’s Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma.

“Even if two patients have the same type of lymphoma, their tumors will still have different proteins,” Kwak continues. “It’s the ultimate in personalized therapy.”

Reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in May.

Putting the body’s defense system to work

A vaccine for advanced melanoma, one of the most lethal cancers, showed improved response rates and progression-free survival for patients when combined with the immunotherapy drug, interleukin-2.

Patrick Hwu, M.D.

The findings mark the first vaccine study in this disease — and one of the first in cancer overall — to show benefit in a randomized Phase III multicenter clinical trial. The peptide vaccine, known as gp 100:209-217 (200M), works by stimulating patients’ T cells, which are known for controlling immune responses.

“Obviously, this is a disease, in its advanced setting, in need of better therapies for our patients,” says Patrick Hwu, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology and co-investigator on the study. “While more follow-up is needed, this study served as a proof-of-principle for vaccines’ role in melanoma and in cancer therapy overall. If we can use the body’s own defense system to attack tumor cells, we provide a mechanism for ridding the body of cancer without destroying healthy tissue.”

Reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in May.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center