(Dallas, July 26, 2006) -- Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR), a component of Baylor Research Institute, has been awarded a three-year, $3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to develop vaccines against melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. The multi-project grant, entitled "Improving the Efficacy of Dendritic Cell Vaccines" is led by Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., director of BIIR.
The research funded by this grant will consist of three projects that center on a randomized clinical trial in which BIIR researchers will test dendritic cells that have been activated against melanoma peptides (portions of the proteins that are unique to melanoma cancer cells). Patients will receive the dendritic cell vaccine in combination with cyclophosphamide (CPA), an anticancer drug known to boost immune system defenses. Pre-treatment with CPA may lead to a stronger anti-cancer immune response by the dendritic cell vaccines. Some patients will receive dendritic cells that are charged against both melanoma and HIV as a control to test the effectiveness of the vaccine strategy against these two diseases.
"This grant is an exciting achievement for us," states Dr. Banchereau. "This will be our seventh clinical trial to test patient-specific melanoma vaccines. It builds off of our first trial, which has been very successful."
The research at BIIR focuses on using dendritic cells, the 'sentries of the immune system,' which are the first line of defense against immune challenges. However, melanoma and other cancers normally manage to evade the immune system. To overcome this problem, BIIR scientists are specifically activating a patient's dendritic cells against melanoma. Because the vaccines are the patient's own cells, there are essentially no side effects.
Michael Ramsay, M.D., president of Baylor Research Institute, says, "This grant is further validation for the advanced, clinically-relevant research being perfo
Contact: Wendy Walker
Baylor Health Care System