Promising cancer 'vaccine' clinical trials hint at future of treatment

A pair of clinical trials this month revealed promising results related to two different cancer 'vaccines.' In the most recent update, a newly published study details a phase 1 clinical trial involving a colorectal cancer vaccination, which may work by activating the patient's immune system to fight colon cancer tumors.

Researchers describe the phase 1 clinical trial's results as 'positive,' which means they demonstrated that the treatment approach is safe. The patients didn't experience any serious side effects from the vaccine, and key to the results were blood markers that indicated the treatment had activated immune cells to target the cancer.

The vaccine was developed by researchers with Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University; the phase 1 clinical trial results were recently published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. The vaccine works by training the patient's immune system to target a molecule called GUCY2C, which is a tumor antigen found in colorectal cancer cases.

This clinical trial involved 10 patients who had stage I and stage II colon cancer. Blood samples taken from the participants revealed that the vaccine had activated 'killer T cells,' which find and destroy the colon cancer cells that may result in a return of the cancer following surgery.

The paper follows news of a successful small clinical trial announced earlier this month that involved a cancer vaccine tested on 11 lymphoma patients. As with the colorectal cancer vaccine detailed above, this vaccine is intended for use with patients who have cancer rather than a preventative measure against it. During that testing, researchers report that some patients went into remission as a result of the vaccine.