Ovarian Cancer Vaccine in Clinical Trial: USA Health

Dr. Rodney Rocconi

For all its complexities, the human body can sometimes behave like an 8-year-old child.

It prefers what it knows.

Following that logic, researchers at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Clinic in Mobile are now doing a clinical study to see how vaccines made from patients’ own tumors could prolong the lives of women with ovarian cancer.

The phase two clinical trial involves 91 ovarian cancer patients who had completed primary chemotherapy and then randomized to a Vigil vaccine or a placebo. The Vigil vaccine is a genetically engineered vaccine made from cancer cells acquired from patients during surgery.

Investigators found that the vaccine showed convincing improvements in survival, with remarkably low toxicity.

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“This vaccine is as targeted as targeted therapy can get,” said Dr. Rodney Rocconi, Elsie Colle Chair of Oncology Research and professor of gynecologic oncology at the Mitchell Cancer Institute. “It uses specific techniques to recruit the immune system to target each patient’s specific cancer antigens, ensuring the vaccine specifically attacks the correct target, the cancer.”

Patients who received the Vigil vaccine showed an extended cancer-free survival from 8.4 months (for the control group) to 12.6 months.

The results revive the notion that immunotherapy can help ovarian cancer patients, Rocconi said. “These significant results, specifically in patients without BRCA gene mutation, are a novel discovery that could affect the standard of care for those BRCA-negative patients, which has not changed in nearly 25 years.”

Unfortunately, the prognosis for patients with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer remains poor. Although most women have a complete response to initial therapy, the majority of women experience a recurrence. As such, any improvements on extending the cancer-free interval or reducing the chance of recurrence is a tremendous step in the treatment of this disease, he said.

The findings were accepted as a late breaking abstract for the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

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