A team of University of New Mexico Cancer Center researchers is developing a new Phase 3 clinical trial where patients’ cells are used to produce a personalized vaccine for metastatic kidney cancer, specifically targeting patient cancer cells.
The phase 3 clinical trial is comparing the efficacy of adding a personalized vaccine to standard therapy for metastatic kidney cancer, when compared to standard therapeutics alone, which includes surgery to remove the tumor and additional therapy (either radiation or chemotherapy) to remove remaining tumor cells.
Targeted kidney cancer vaccines have been a long-term goal of medical research, as noted by Richard Lauer, MD, FACP, Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine “There have been innumerable attempts to make vaccines [to fight kidney cancer] over the years, to try to take advantage of the immune system. And they have been uniformly disappointing.”
Cancer vaccines have been based on the idea of “recruiting” different immune cells, such as T cells and dendritic cells, to activate and direct their activity towards cancer cells. In the phase 3 clinical trial, the team is introducing a new approach, “We’re activating the patient’s dendritic cells against the patient’s own tumor. That’s never been done. This is a new, innovative technology,” Lauer explained.
After the surgical and therapeutic procedure, the team extracted RNA from Holmes’ tumor cells. They then used this RNA to activate Holmes’ dendritic cells, previously extracted form her blood in a process known as “leukapheresis.” She was then injected with her own-activated dendritic cells — her personalized kidney cancer vaccine — into her lymph nodes. This allows activated dendritic cells to teach Holmes’ T cells to recognize and attack tumor cells, wherever they are in the body. The procedure is performed eight times throughout a course of a few months. While the procedure sound painful, Holes commented in a press release, “It sounds terrible but it was nothing. I’ve had mosquito bites worse than that.”
The team will carefully follow-up Holmes during and after the trial, she added, “I’m delighted to be part of the study. I have a wonderful team and I have the best chance right here.”