Latest Update on Immunotherapy: Cancer Vaccine


National Cancer Center Singapore [NCCS], released a statement that they will be launching a new therapeutic cancer vaccine treatment. This is a US FDA-approved, human clinical trial for a cancer therapy that is based on the human immune system. The NCCS Trial is significant as it is one of the first trials that is allowed to be conducted in Asia.

Prostate, colon, ovarian, lung and breast cancer are the types of cancers very common in East Asia as well as in the Western countries. For the first phase of the study, Singapore Clinical Research Institute and NCSS are working hand in hand with MicroVax, a US-based biotech company, to check how effective the cancer vaccine is to the types of cancer mentioned.

Cancer vaccine’s expected therapeutic effect is for it to prompt the immune system to reproduce antibodies that will go after a unique protein that is found on the outer portion of the cancer cells. These antibodies, however, will not target any healthy cells because the healthy cells do not have the target protein found on the cancer cells.

As for the MicroVAX’s vaccine, this particular vaccine focuses on going after a protein called MUC-1. This type of protein is found in some types of breast cancer, colon cancer, and other cancers. When this vaccine is introduced into the body, the vaccine prompts the immune system to release antibodies that will attach to the protein, which in turn allows the body to go after and kill the tumor cells.

Dr. Toh Han Chong, Phase I clinical trial’s NCCS Principal Investigator and deputy director, claimed that the results will be released when the patients have their follow-up check up after an additional year. The trial will be implemented through the rest of this year.

Those patients with advanced stage cancer are the first ones being tested for the effectiveness of MicroVAX. The study will prove its effectiveness as opposed to taking chemotherapy or other conventional treatments for cancer.

According to Jacob Frank, the spokesperson for MicroVAX, they believe that a cancer vaccine will be a very important key in the advancement of cancer therapy and vaccines like MicroVAX will play a major role in this vision.

There are earlier-generation immunotherapies such as monoclonal antibodies. This is a type of immunotherapy drug that depends on antibodies which are made in a laboratory. These antibodies bind to the cancer cell proteins, which in turn, will make the body’s immune system to go after the cancer cells.

Dr. Anna Ferrari, an oncology professor at Langone Medical Center, says that the difference between a cancer vaccine and monoclonal antibodies is that a cancer vaccine serves an “active” stimulant to the immune system. Monoclonal antibodies, on the other hand, act as a “passive” stimulator.

And because “passive” immunotherapy depends on the antibodies created in the laboratory to be able to “wake” the body’s immune system, this type of immunotherapy requires repeated administration to be able to maintain the efficacy level.

“While improving side effects and cost of therapy is attractive, our real aspiration is that we can get a patient’s own immune system to work many times better and deliver improved outcomes for patients.”, Dr. Walker further added.

At this point, cancer vaccines still have a long way to go to make waves in the therapeutic cancer treatment. One thing’s for certain, innovative cancer treatment is looking toward a very bright future.