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Our Newest Therapeutic Development Study Focuses on the Promise of a Cancer Vaccine

November 16, 2011

Cancer treatment vaccines differ from other vaccines in that they treat active cancers or help to prevent recurrence. SKC has funded the project in adherence to its model of funding studies that are novel, first in children, and have high potential impact, while being less toxic than current treatments. This area of cancer immunology is currently understudied in pediatrics but holds great promise. The project builds on five years of pre-clinical research which identified three new immunological targets that are specific to this pediatric cancer.

The project is a small proof-of-concept study of 15 patients, smartly designed to answer scientific questions more rapidly than conventional clinical trials. Success can mean expanding the study to numerous cancer centers to treat more children.

SKC’s new study, taking place at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Ken Lucas, uses a vaccine created by the patient’s own white blood cells, which are isolated, modified and transfused back to the patient. A targeted agent called decitabine, given before the vaccine, increases the expression of the 3 immunologic targets (NY-ESO-1, MAGE-A1 and MAGE-A3). This combination therapy provides an ideal immune response environment for the vaccine to target all cancer cells.

Since opening this fall, the study has accrued three patients, and has treated the first child who showed a complete response after treatment, remaining cancer-free two months after therapy. “These are very early observations,” said Scott Kennedy, SKC’s Executive Director, “but we believe this therapy holds great promise.” The next two patients have been screened and approved to be on the study in the next six weeks. As the study extends, opening also at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center/Boston Children’s Hospital, rapid accrual of new patients is expected.

To read about SKC's other therapeutic development programs click http://solvingkidscancer.org/work