Theme 4: Vaccines

Overview:  Several CCIR members are developing therapeutic vaccines for different types of cancer and finding ways to improve their efficacy.  The ability to generate a strong immune response in vivo through vaccination is critical to the successful induction of immunity against infectious agents and cancer. Three randomized clinical trials have recently demonstrated the benefits of vaccination for patients with melanoma, lymphoma and prostate cancer. Drs. Hwu and Kwak were leaders in two of these pivotal trials (Schwartzentruber DJ, N Engl Med. 2011; Schuster SJ, J Clin Oncol. 2011).  In addition, the availability of agents that are capable of enhancing immune responses, such as TLR agonists, cytokines, and immunomodulatory antibodies, underscores the importance of developing rational combinations of agents to optimally activate cellular and humoral immunity against pathogens and cancer.  

Some highlights from Fiscal Year 2013 include: 
• A recent study demonstrated that lenalidomide, in addition to its own cytotoxic effects on tumor cells, can also serve as an immune adjuvant in combination with vaccine therapy, as demonstrated in tumor-bearing mice, via two proposed mechanisms: effect on T-cell activation to boost adaptive antitumor immunity and amelioration of tumor-induced immune suppression (Sakamaki I, Leukemia, 2013)
• Vaccination with Dickkopf-1 (DKK1), broadly expressed in myeloma cells but highly restricted in normal tissues, was shown to protect mice from developing myeloma and also shown to be therapeutic against established myeloma, thus providing strong and direct evidence to support the application of DKK1-based immunotherapy in myeloma patients (Qian J, Blood, 2012)
• A study recently published in Nature Medicine demonstrated that peptide/IFA-based vaccination sites may outcompete tumor sites for T cell recognition, chemokine production, T cell accumulation and tissue destruction; these findings may help explain the typically limited clinical benefit of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells induced by a widely used class of cancer vaccines (Hailemichael Y, Nat Med. 2013)
• The Annual Texas Cancer Vaccine Symposium was organized and sponsored by the CCIR, held in the S. Campus Research Building at MD Anderson Cancer Center on January 13, 2014. Over 100 participants attended the Symposium, representing more than 10 different institutions throughout the state of Texas.  The Symposium included 14 oral presentations as well as a poster session, forming the basis for many new collaborations and grant opportunities.

Additional Relevant Publications: