Recently during two small clinical trials, researchers observed what are being hailed as incredible results in response to new cancer treatments in the form of personalized vaccines. With new technology and techniques emerging every day, the field of oncology is getting closer to solving one of humanity’s most difficult diseases to defeat.
New Cancer Treatments Show Clinical Promise
Cancer is a disease that comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and levels of severity. It has the ability to affect just about any and every part of the human body, often in extremely debilitating and life-threatening ways. The diverse nature of this disease is part of what makes it so difficult to treat and prevent. Now, two recent studies have been published in the journal Nature which may precipitate the next wave of new cancer treatments through targeted, individualized vaccines.
Of course, these studies are in no way the end-all-be-all of cancer therapy research, they do represent a new take on how medicine can better fight the disease in the very near future. So far, the research is showing some remarkable results.
Even though these specific cancer vaccines are new, cancer vaccines, in general, are somewhat old news. The exception here is that researchers have begun exploring the possibility of creating personalized vaccines that correspond with an individual’s unique genetic make-up and the specific mutations of their cancer. These new cancer treatments like others are looking to target tumors by optimizing a vaccine to work with someone’s biology and their bodily conditions which may have led to the disease.
Small Trials with Huge Implications
The first trials run thus far were very small, however, the implications could be huge for new cancer treatments. In the studies, researchers combined cancer cells obtained from each patient and mixed them with agents which stimulate the immune system to elicit a certain response. The basic idea is that these agents would ignite an immune system response entrained to the specific nature and biology of the cancer cells present in the vaccine.
In the first of these two trials, 4 patients out of 6 hadn’t seen their tumors return, with the remaining two eventually going into complete remission following additional treatments. The second trial showed 8 of 13 patients remained tumor-free for more than a year following these new cancer treatments. Of the 5 remaining participants, their tumors had spread before they received the vaccine — though two of these patients did see their tumors shrink. An additional 5 went into complete remission following additional treatment.
Cornelis Melief, a cancer immunologist from the Netherlands’ Leidan University Medical Centre wrote in a commentary on the study,
“It’s potentially a game changer…The two papers really strongly indicate that the patients experienced clinical benefit.”
Although only two very small clinical trials have been run thus far, the use of personalized cancer vaccines may be one of the greatest weapons we have against cancerous tumors so far. In addition to being personalized to an individual’s personal biology, the vaccines are tailored to specific types of cancer and it’s unique mutations. The hope is that the more targeted and personalized cancer treatments there are, the more success we’ll have in increasing remission rates until the disease itself becomes fully preventable.