A pilot trial conducted at the University of Pennsylvania’s two units; Perelman School of Medicine and Abramson Cancer Center, has reported positive results showing the effective use of a new kind of personalised cancer vaccine.

Developed from the patients’ own immune cells – which are exposed in the laboratory to the contents of their tumour cells – the personalised vaccine was injected into the patients to launch a greater immune response.

The trial was performed in advanced ovarian cancer patients and primarily aims to identify the safety and feasibility of the vaccine.

“This vaccine appears to be safe for patients, and elicits a broad anti-tumour immunity.”

Penn Medicine obstetrics and gynecology assistant professor and the study lead author Janos Tanyi said: “This vaccine appears to be safe for patients, and elicits a broad anti-tumour immunity—we think it warrants further testing in larger clinical trials.

“The idea is to mobilise an immune response that will target the tumour very broadly, hitting a variety of markers, including some that would be found only on that particular tumour.”

During the trial, nearly half of the vaccinated patients demonstrated signs of anti-tumour T-cell responses, and those ‘responders’ tended to live much longer without tumour progression than those who did not respond.

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The trial enrolled a total of 25 patients, each of whom received a dose of tumour-exposed dendritic cells every three weeks. In some cases, the treatment course ran for more than six months.

It found that half of the patients that could be investigated showed huge increases in the numbers of T-cells specifically reactive to tumour material, thereby indicating a good response to vaccination.

The trial’s two-year overall survival rate for the responder patients was 100%, while the rate for non-responders was 25%.

It received funding from the US National Institutes of Health, Marcus Foundation, Ovarian Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative, University of Lausanne’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, and Ovacure Foundation.