Clinical trial with new vaccine against lung cancer starts

Editorial Medicalfacts/ Janine Budding 23 november 2021 – 08:41

A vaccine that teaches the immune system of lung cancer patients to recognize and clear tumor cells. This technology was developed at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) under the supervision of Sjoerd van der Burg, who is also affiliated with Oncode. This vaccine may offer a solution for a large part of the almost 10,000 patients who develop lung cancer every year. Recently, a new clinical study into this vaccine was started at Erasmus MC among patients with non-small cell lung cancer.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer. In 80% of cases, the tumor is already resistant to existing treatments at the time of diagnosis. The treatment options for these people are thus very limited. The research team, led by Sjoerd van der Burg and Joachim Aerts, pulmonologist at Erasmus MC, hopes to change this with an innovative approach based on a therapeutic vaccine. In the recently started phase 1/2 clinical study, the safety and tolerability of the vaccine and the dose needed to induce a good immune response will be examined in 24 patients.

Every disadvantage has its advantage

The innovative vaccine is all about activating the body’s own immune system to fight lung cancer. “The immune system normally recognizes erroneous or foreign proteins that are on the surface of your cells,” says Van der Burg. “In this way, a tumor cell can be recognized as such and cleared by immune cells. Unfortunately, a tumor very often bypasses this system, so it hides itself from the immune system, as it were.”

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In 2006 it already became clear that fragments of normal, endogenous proteins end up on the surface of these ‘invisible’ tumor cells. It was unclear for a long time what exactly these fragments are, but recent research by Thorbald van Hall in Van der Burg’s group changed that. “In 2018 we mapped a number of these fragments. Moreover, it turned out that these fragments only occur on tumor cells and not on healthy cells. From a molecular point of view, tumor cells can therefore still be distinguished from healthy cells. With our vaccine, we want to ensure that the immune system can make that distinction and thus still initiate an immune response against the tumor.”

Impact for patients

On average, 5 years after diagnosis, 65% of all people with cancer are still alive. For non-small cell lung cancer, this is only 20%. “The vaccine that we are now going to study could therefore offer a solution for a large group of people,” says Aerts. The molecular principle that the vaccine focuses on is also common in other forms of cancer, including melanoma. The potential of the vaccine is therefore great.

More information about this research can be found on the website of the Oncode Institute.

Source: LUMC

Editorial Medicalfacts/ Janine Budding

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