AutoSynVax is a personalized anti-cancer vaccine being investigated as a possible treatment of advanced cancers. Developed by Agenus, an immuno-oncology company, the vaccine is designed to indentify tumor neoantigens (newly formed antigens not previously recognized by the immune system) that are unique to each patient based on an individual tumor profile.

How AutoSynVax works

AutoSynVax aims to boost immune recognition of cancer antigens to levels that cannot be achieved naturally. The vaccine is thought to work by helping the immune system better recognize even cancer antigens present at small quantities in a given patient’s tumor. (An antigen is any substance that triggers an immune reaction; the immune system produces antibodies to fight off the invader.)

The vaccine is made by combining synthetic versions of each patient’s own cancer antigens and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70). HSP70 transports protein fragments, known as epitopes, that activate specialized immune system cells called T-cells. When sufficiently active and sensitized to these epitopes, T-cells can mount a strong anti-tumor response that helps to fight cancer cells.

AutoSynVax in clinical trials

The safety and tolerability of AutoSynVax is currently being evaluated in an open-label, single-arm Phase 1 clinical trial (NCT02992977) in about 20 people with very advanced solid tumors, whose cancers are no longer responding to standard treatment. Patients are receiving every other week subcutaneous injections of AutoSynVax in combination QS-21 Stimulon, an adjuvant or add-on therapy that enhances the way a cancer vaccine works, for up to one year.

Researchers will monitor how patients respond to the therapy, their level of disease progression, and the number of patients still alive after one year. All participants in this trial, which is set to conclude in March 2019, entered with an estimated six months of life left.

AutoSynVax had positive results in early laboratory studies. Preclinical data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) 2017 Annual Meeting showed that AutoSynVax was active and worked synergistically with other forms of immunotherapy, such as checkpoint blockades and other checkpoint modulators that work to counter the mechanisms cancer takes to evade an immune system response.

AutoSynVax is one of three vaccines being developed by Agenus as potential cancer treatments.


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