Cancer Vaccines: A Report from the World - Day Three

October 05, 2004

New York (October 6th) -- Vaccines that harness the exquisite specificity of a patient's own immune system to detect and attack cancer cells have long been a dream of cancer immunologists. Now cancer vaccines appear even closer to reality as speaker after speaker on the final day of the 2004 International Cancer Immunotherapy Symposia Series reported consistent and reproducible immunological responses against cancer cells using various approaches to vaccination. Several speakers also presented preliminary results from small early-phase trials, which suggest that even more Phase III clinical trials to test therapeutic efficacy will soon be warranted.

The three day Symposium was highly successful according to Dr. Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Executive Director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) in New York, which organizes the acclaimed meetings. "This year's Symposium has brought together the leading cancer immunologists from around the globe, and really showcased the thoughtful, solid science that's going into the development of these vaccines. It's clear that the majority of the cancer immunotherapy field has moved away from 'shoot and see' approaches. Investigators are now carefully monitoring and characterizing the immune response to systematically develop effective vaccines."

Highlights from the third day included a presentation, by Dr. Glenn Dranoff of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, covering the latest developments in vaccines based on tumor cells that have been engineered to produce a protein component of the immune system. Dr. Dranoff's work, supported by CRI for several years, is the basis of the technology behind GVAX® Cancer Vaccines (Cell Genesys Inc.) one of the first types of vaccine to enter Phase III efficacy trials. Dr. Dennis Panicali of Therion Biologics Corporation gave an intriguing overview of preclinical and clinical research that has led to the initiation of the first Phase III clinical trial of a pox virus-based cancer vaccine.

Finally, a report on the progress of the international Cancer Vaccine Collaborative (CVC), an innovative partnership between CRI and the global Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (LICR) was also presented. Dr. Kunle Odunsi (Roswell Park Cancer Institute) described laboratory and clinical research in the CVC's ovarian cancer program, including preliminary results from a Phase I clinical trial of a vaccine designed to reduce the high rate of ovarian cancer relapse. The CVC's Dr. Daniel Speiser (LICR Lausanne Branch) then compared and contrasted Dr. Odunsi's presentation with laboratory and clinical trials results from a parallel melanoma program in Switzerland.

For Dr. O'Donnell-Tormey, the prominence of the results from CRI-funded research and CVC clinical trials was especially gratifying. "It's exciting to know that the CRI, a small New York-based charity, is contributing to developments in the international cancer vaccine movement through the funding of basic laboratory discovery and clinical discovery for vaccines. But it's even more exciting that the CVC clinical trial sites in the US are benefiting from the pooled knowledge from vaccine developments taking place around the world."
* Presentation summaries available on request.

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

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