Cerus plans to use this doubly attenuated listeria strain as a platform for various types of cancer vaccines. In fact, Cook said, as long as an antigen can be found that stimulates an immune system attack against a cancer, that antigen could be inserted into listeria to create a vaccine.
At the moment, Cerus' preclinical development programs are focused on two novel cancer antigens, according to a recent company press release. Cerus is collaborating with Johns Hopkins University to develop a listeria-based vaccine targeting pancreatic and ovarian cancers that express the Mesothelin antigen, and has partnered with MedImmune, Inc., to develop a listeria-based vaccine targeting the large number of tumors, including breast, prostate and melanoma, that overexpress the antigen EphA2. Both antigen targets have recently been featured in new research reports suggesting their significance as potential targets for cancer treatment.
The listeria-based cancer vaccine work was sponsored by Cerus Corp., with support for Portnoy from the U.S. Public Health Service. Portnoy also serves as a consultant for Cerus. Coauthors on the paper are Dirk Brockstedt, Martin Giedlin, Meredith Leong, Keith Bahjat, Yi Gao, William Luckett, Weiqun Liu and Thoms Dubensky Jr. of Cerus.