Ovarian Cancer Vaccine

New Developments in Creating a Solution

Most people I speak to believe that an ovarian cancer vaccine has already been developed. However this is a misconception, they are getting confused with the cervical cancer vaccine that was developed by the Australian Professor Ian Frazer. The cervical cancer vaccine, called Gardasil, protects women against four strains of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which account for 70% of all cervical cancers.

So, while Gardasil is a good preventative measure against cervical cancer, what is being done in terms of developing an ovarian cancer vaccine? Well, there is actually quiet a bit of research into developing a vaccine, not to prevent, but to treat ovarian cancer. The idea behind these vaccines is to stimulate the body’s own immune system to target and destroy tumor cells.

An Australian company, Prima Biomed, has performed a number of clinical trials with its vaccine CVac. Using a novel technology, CVac’s immunotherapy works by teaching the immune system to recognise the tumor cells as foreign. Dendritic cells are removed from the patient and stimulated with mannan fusion protein (MFP), consisting of the antigenic portion of the tumor antigen mucin-1 (MUC-1) fused to the immune-enhancing sugar mannan. The cells are then reinfused back into the patient to generate primarily a T-cell-based immune response against the MUC-1-expressing tumour.

In September 2009, the company received the go-ahead from the US Food and Drug Administration to conduct a Phase IIb trial at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre in Seattle in the US, which will involve 60 patients. CVac is administered post-surgery and post-chemotherapy to delay the relapse and control the metastases of the cancer.

The Cancer treatment Centers of America (CTCA) is a leading provider of innovative cancer care for patients living with complex and advanced-stage cancers. In 2008 they received permission to start a trial of a vaccine for patients with stage 3 or stage 4 ovarian cancer who have tumor progression, despite at least one, but no more than two chemotherapy regimens.

Participants in this clinical trial must first receive surgery at CTCA at Midwestern Regional Medical Center and localized chemotherapy infused directly into the abdomen (intraperitoneal chemotherapy), a standard of cancer care available to many CTCA patients. Patients become eligible for the vaccine trial when it is determined that enough tumor cells can be harvested from the debulked tumor to create the ovarian cancer vaccine and the vaccine has passed rigid quality control testing.

Dr Sybilann Williams of the CTCA has said about this treatment: “Ovarian cancer is a very complex disease that is often resistant to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. CTCA will offer our patients the opportunity to be involved in another ground-breaking step in the fight against ovarian cancer.”

For more information on this treatment, see the CTCA page here. Other experimental ovarian cancer vaccines target different molecules on the surface of cancer cells, or use different ways of presenting these molecules to the immune system. These have been shown to increase the numbers of certain immune system cells called CD4 T-cells and CD8 T-cells in the bloodstream. Several of these vaccines have demonstrated anti-tumor responses in ovarian cancer patients.

For some ovarian cancer vaccine clinical trials see the links below:

So as you can see there are some exciting developments happening in this field, and one of the good things about this type of treatment is that it is using the persons own body to combat the disease. Another benefit is of using vaccines to treat cancer is that they have been shown to be safe and non-toxic. The vaccines are still in the early days of development, but once their safety and efficacy is determined, an ovarian cancer vaccine may form an important part of the treatment for ovarian cancer, especially in helping reduce tumor recurrence.