Vaccine technique shows potential against common form of lung cancer

BOSTON In a demonstration of vaccine therapys potential for treating lung cancer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists and their associates report that a prototype vaccine boosted the natural immune response to tumors in a small group of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Moreover, the vaccine was found to be non-toxic and well-tolerated.

Published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, findings from the Phase I clinical trial will provide an impetus for further efforts to develop a vaccine against NSCLC, a difficult-to-treat condition that accounts for roughly 80 percent of all lung cancer cases. (Phase I trials are designed primarily to assess the safety of an experimental treatment.)

"This work represents a new approach to a vaccine for lung cancer patients, says senior author Glenn Dranoff, MD, of Dana-Farber. "Were still at an early stage, but the results of this study are encouraging. They offer a 'proof of principle' that this technique can strengthen the normal immune response to NSCLC tumors and will help form the basis for testing the vaccine in patients with earlier stage lung cancer."

The technique was originally developed for patients with advanced melanoma, a form of cancer that begins in the skin but can be deadly if allowed to spread to other parts of the body.

The researchers created the melanoma vaccine by removing a portion of a patients tumor and using specially equipped viruses to insert a gene known as GM-CSF into the tumor cells. After being radiated and injected into the patient, the manipulated tumor cells began producing the granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) protein, which acted as a magnet for an immune system attack on tumor cells. As the researchers had hoped, the vaccine elicited a potent, long-lasting immune response targeted at the melanoma tumor cells and produced only minor side effects.

In the lung cancer study,

Contact: Bill Schaller
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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