Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston are testing a first-of-its-kind personalized cancer vaccine combined with an immunotherapy drug, with the aim of improving outcomes for patients with kidney cancer who are at high risk of recurrence after surgery.
A two-pronged approach to mobilize a patient’s immune response against cancer cells that remain in the body after surgery is being evaluated in a phase I clinical trial, with a goal of 15 to 20 enrolled patients. It is the first trial to evaluate a personalized cancer vaccine in patients with kidney cancer.
Novel Combination Therapy
This new approach is aimed at improving the success of immunotherapy by combining ipilimumab with a personalized vaccine designed to recognize neoantigens present in an individual’s cancer cells. The vaccine, known as NeoVax, is based on research at Dana-Farber led by Catherine Wu, MD.
Catherine Wu, MD
To make a personalized neoantigen vaccine, samples of the tumor taken from the patient are analyzed to determine which neoantigens are present in the tumor cells. Then, computational methods are used to predict which neoantigens are most likely to provoke a response by the immune system. These neoantigens are then incorporated into a personalized vaccine, which is designed to guide the immune system to attack cancer cells bearing those neoantigens.
David Braun, MD, PhD
Toni Choueiri, MD
Patrick Ott, MD, PhD
David Braun, MD, PhD, is leading the trial together with Toni Choueiri, MD, and Patrick Ott, MD, PhD, in a collaboration with the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. “Our hope is that if we can learn how to make immune therapy work effectively in this tumor type, we will also learn lessons that are more broadly applicable to other types of cancer as well,” noted Dr. Braun. ■