A personalized cancer vaccine sounds like something you’d hear in a sci-fi movie. However, scientists from Mount Sinai Hospital reveal that they have made one using a computational platform. It is even more exciting to learn that these personalized vaccines are safe for use and even beneficial for high-risk patients. These reports are according to the recently concluded phase 1- clinical trials of the vaccines.
According to Thomas Marron, MD, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine and Assistant Director of Early Phase and Immunotherapy Trials at the Tish Cancer Institute, immunotherapy has changed cancer treatment. He, however, adds that the majority of the patients don’t respond to such treatments. Cancer vaccines are tumor-specific and can learn to identify and attack to prevent the recurrence of cancer. The vaccine also has an adjuvant that rejuvenates the immune system and maximizes its efficiency.
The researchers used each patient’s tumor and germline DNA, and tumor RNA to make personalized responses. They also noted each patient’s tumor-specific target, which helped them better understand whether their immune systems would recognize the vaccine’s targets.
Mount Sinai’s computational pipeline, OpenVax, then helped them prioritize and recognize immunogenic targets to synthesize and include in each vaccine.
Six months after standard cancer treatments, the participants received ten doses of the personalized vaccines. Doctors administered the vaccines through immunostimulant (adjuvant,poly-ICLC), which Nina Bhardwaj, MD, Ph.D., describes as a stabilized synthetic double-stranded RNA with the potential to activate innate immune receptors, making it ideal for inducing immune responses towards tumor neoantigens.
The future of cancer treatment
Dr. Bhardwaj adds that the majority of experimental cancer vaccines are administered in the metastatic setting. Prior research, however, shows that immunotherapies are more effective for patients with less cancer spread. The researchers, therefore, developed a neoantigen vaccine that can be administered after a standard-of-care adjuvant therapy. The results proved that their OpenVax pipeline is a possible solution to generate safe, approach-focused cancer vaccines.