An immune-based therapy is moving forward with its third clinical trial, which is developed at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI). The early-stage clinical trial will assess whether SurVaxM - a cancer vaccine developed at Roswell Park - is a safe and effective treatment option for patients with multiple myeloma, a rare type of blood cancer.
The vaccine will be tested in combination with REVLIMIDÂ® (also known as lenalidomide) as maintenance therapy for adults with multiple myeloma. "Almost all patients with multiple myeloma who go into remission will still have microscopic amounts of disease left following treatment, and this residual cancer eventually can grow back and cause a relapse.
‘Vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that can also be used to treat cancer, they can be used in a therapeutic mode, rather than a preventive mode. And cancer vaccines, in general, tend to have few serious side effects.’
It's a problem compounded by the fact that these patients eventually become resistant to current therapies," says Kelvin Lee, MD, Jacobs Family Chair of Immunology, who is leading the phase I clinical trial. "But, in combination with oral lenalidomide, which exhibits both immune-modifying and tumoricidal effects, we believe that this vaccine may trigger antimyeloma immune responses, which may prevent recurrences and eradicate the disease."
Created by Roswell Park faculty members Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, the SurVaxM vaccine stimulates the immune system to target the survivin protein, which helps cancer cells survive under stressful conditions. SurVaxM was first tested in brain cancer patients, and it may prove effective against other types of cancer as well.
A phase I study of SurVaxM in some brain cancers concluded last year, and a phase II study of the vaccine as part of combination treatment for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma is ongoing at Roswell Park, the Cleveland Clinic and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "Vaccines are typically thought of as things to prevent diseases like measles, polio and mumps. But vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that can also be used to treat cancer. They can be used in a therapeutic mode, rather than a preventive mode," says Dr. Fenstermaker, Chair of Neurosurgery. "And cancer vaccines, in general, tend to have few serious side effects."
"We are the first team to test this approach as a therapy for multiple myeloma, and it's very exciting," adds Dr. Lee, who notes that the study will be conducted in adults whose disease is in remission following completion of standard therapy for multiple myeloma. "The primary purpose of this study is to determine whether this therapy is safe, but our investigations will also allow us to explore new ways of stimulating the immune system to fight cancer cells."
Roswell Park is partnering on this research with Celgene Corp., manufacturer of REVLIMID, and MimiVax LLC, the licensed developer of SurVaxM. Drs. Ciesielski and Fenstermaker credit early seed funding from donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation with moving their vaccine research forward. The Alliance Foundation raises funds on behalf of Roswell Park in support of research and patient-care programs.