Personalized Cancer Vaccines Look Promising in Two New Studies

Source: Technology Review, July 2017

A vaccine that teaches the body to selectively destroy tumors has eluded cancer researchers for decades. Despite many clinical trials, such vaccines have shown little to no success. Now two personalized cancer vaccine approaches appear to have safely prevented cancer relapse in a dozen patients with late-stage skin cancer.

In recent years, scientists have realized that each patient’s tumor harbors a unique set of genetic characteristics, or mutations. So for cancer vaccines to be effective, they’ll probably also have to be unique. Two clinical trials, detailed today in separate papers in Nature, are among the first to show that this might be possible.

In one trial, eight of 13 melanoma patients who got a personalized cancer vaccine were tumor-free nearly two years after being treated. In a smaller study, four of the six patients who received a vaccine had no detectable cancer for more than two years after treatment. All patients had their tumors surgically removed before getting the vaccine.

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