Cancer Vaccines: Immunotherapy’s New Wave
Source: Global Health and Travel. Permission required for reproduction.
Last August, doctors at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) announced the launch of a US FDA-approved in-human clinical trial for an immune system-based cancer therapy known as a therapeutic cancer vaccine, one of the first such trials of its kind to be conducted in Asia.
For the Phase I trial, NCCS and the Singapore Clinical Research Institute (SCRI) are collaborating with a US-based biotech MicroVAX to test the effectiveness of the cancer vaccine in patients with breast, ovarian, prostate, colon and lung cancer – cancers that are extremely prominent in Western countries as well as East Asia.
The science behind cancer vaccines’ proposed therapeutic effect lies in vaccines’ ability to trigger the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that attack a very specific protein found on the surface of cancer cells, but not found in healthy cells.
In the case of MicroVAX’s vaccine, the vaccine targets the protein MUC-1, found in certain types of colon cancer, breast cancer, and others.
Once delivered into the body, the vaccine stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies that attach themselves to the MUC-1 protein, enabling the body to attack and kill the tumour cells.
The trial will continue through most of this year, and results will be known after an additional year of patient follow-up, says Dr. Toh Han Chong, NCCS Principal Investigator of the Phase I clinical trial, who is also deputy director at NCCS.
The MicroVAX vaccine is first being tested in patients with advanced stage cancer to prove its effectiveness versus conventional cancer therapies like chemotherapy.
“MicroVAX is of the vision that immunotherapy will be key for cancer therapy going forward. We believe that cancer vaccines will play a major role in this vision,” Jacob Frank, a spokesperson for MicroVAX, told Global Health and Travel.
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