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Longevity Briefs: A Personalised Vaccine Against Cancer Recurrence

Posted on 16 February 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: The prospect of a cancer vaccine to prevent the disease or stop it from recurring after treatment is an elusive but tantalizing goal that’s been pursued for decades. Cancer cells express abnormal proteins called neoantigens that make them targetable by the immune system, which means that an individual’s immune cells can be primed against cancer cells using a vaccine. Such a vaccine must be personalised, as the antigens expressed by cancer cells vary between individuals and even throughout a single tumour.

Image result for cancer vaccine
Cancer vaccine development approaches.

What did the researchers do: In this phase I clinical trial, eight patients were enrolled who had undergone surgery for advanced melanoma (a form of skin cancer) but were considered at high risk of recurrence. They were treated with NeoVax, a vaccine made from pieces of neoantigens matching those expressed by the patient’s cancer cells.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: A median of four years post-treatment, all eight patients remained alive, and six of them showed no signs of active disease. The patients’ T cells not only “remembered” the initial target neoantigens, but had also expanded to recognize other tumour antigens not introduced by the vaccine. This suggests that the vaccine was able to produce a robust and long lasting response, which bodes well for this treatment.

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