A novel ovarian cancer treatment made from tumour cells has cured a woman in the US with an advanced form of the disease, scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have announced.
During a preliminary trial of the two-step immunotherapy, the patient achieved complete remission, while seven other women had no measurable disease at the end of the study.
The therapy includes a personalised immune cell vaccination made from the patients’ live tumour cells and adoptive T-cell therapy.
Both treatments are given in conjunction with Avastin (bevacizumab), a drug developed by Roche that controls the blood vessel growth that feeds tumours.
The second step in the study involved the isolation of immune cells, known as dendritic cells, from the patients’ blood through a process called apheresis, similar to the process used for blood donation.
Announcing its findings at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting in Washington DC on Saturday, the research team reported that in the study of 31 patients, vaccination therapy alone showed a 61% clinical benefit, and the combination of both therapies benefited around 75% of participants.
Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the US, taking the lives of 14,000 people each year.
Lead author of the study Lana Kandalaft said; "Given these grim outcomes, there is definitely a vast unmet need for the development of novel, alternate therapies."
"This is the first time such a combination immunotherapy approach has been used for patients with ovarian cancer, and we believe the results are leading us toward a completely new way to treat this disease."
The vaccine trial is still open to accrual to test new combinatorial strategies.
Image: The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of Matthew Colo.