UM Cancer researchers test custom-made vaccine for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

As part of a national multi-center study, researchers at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in Baltimore are testing a custom-made vaccine for low-grade non-Hodgkins lymphoma that uses each patients own tumor cells to combat the cancer.

This type of low-grade follicular lymphoma has traditionally been highly treatable, but essentially incurable, says Aaron P. Rapoport, M.D., the director of lymphoma-gene medicine at the Greenebaum Cancer Center and the chief investigator for the study. This technique for harnessing the immune system may result in long-term disease remission and potential cures for some patients.

So far, four people have been enrolled in the study at the Greenebaum Cancer Center, but researchers hope to recruit a total of 12 to 15 patients in the Phase III clinical trial. The first patient to be vaccinated, a 45-year-old Baltimore woman, started her treatment earlier this month after completing a course of chemotherapy.

About 480 patients are expected to participate in the nationwide study at 25 institutions in the United States and Canada. The study is sponsored by Genitope Corporation, a California-based biotechnology company developing new therapies for treating cancer.

To be eligible for the study, patients must have been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, a common form of cancer of the lymphatic system, and have not yet received treatment. If enrolled, they will have a small biopsy taken of their cancer, either from a lymph node or bone marrow, which will be sent to Genitope Corporation to make a vaccine unique to each patient.

The customized vaccine is designed to target a tumor-specific marker, or idiotype, which, like a fingerprint, is unique to every lymphoma patient. Once injected, the vaccine is intended to activate the immune system to attack cells that have the idiotype protein on their surface, namely the cancer cells.


Contact: Karen E. Warmkessel
University of Maryland Medical Center

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