Cancer vaccines for melanoma may be a bit of a sore spot at the moment, given GlaxoSmithKline's recent disappointment with the MAGE-A3 vaccine in late-stage trials, but Harvard researchers could be about to inject some renewed hope into the cancer immunotherapy field.
A team of scientists and engineers in Boston and Cambridge have developed an implantable cancer vaccine against melanoma, and now researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have announced they have commenced a Phase I clinical trial to test the safety of the technology. The study is expected to conclude in 2015.
The implantable cancer vaccine, which uses a small fingernail-sized disc embedded under the skin, was first reported to eliminate melanoma tumours in mice in 2009. The vaccine recruits and reprograms the patient's immune system to destroy cancer cells. While the vaccine is currently being tested for melanoma, the technology could also be applied to target other cancers.
The technology was one of the first to emerge from the new Wyss Institute in Boston. The institute comprises a consortium of researchers, engineers and clinicians. “This is expected to be the first of many new innovative therapies made possible by the Wyss Institute’s collaborative model of translational research that will enter human clinical trials,” said Wyss Founding Director Don Ingber.
The institute strives to move technology into the clinical space much faster than normal. “It is rare to get a new technology tested in the laboratory and moved into human clinical trials so quickly,” said Glenn Dranoff, Wyss Institute Associate Faculty member. “We’re beyond thrilled with the momentum, and excited about its potential.
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