Sunday, June 14, 2009

June 14, 2009 - New Lymphoma Vaccine

I’m feeling hopeful, today, after reading some articles about a new vaccine for follicular lymphoma, recently announced by Dr. Stephen Schuster, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center, at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Orlando. One article is a University of Pennsylvania press release, the other an ABC News story.

Dr. Schuster’s study involves a personalized cancer vaccine, fabricated out of the patient’s own malignant cells. Other cancer vaccines are created to go after some factor that influences the survival of cancer cells. This one is different, Dr. Schuster says, because it goes after the cancer itself. The vaccine – or, rather, the process of producing it, since every patient’s version is different – is called BiovaxID.

I suppose it’s kind of like giving a bloodhound an article of clothing belonging to the fugitive being tracked. Having memorized the criminal’s distinctive scent, the hound is able to sniff out the quarry. The cancer vaccine, equipped with chemical markers from the patient’s malignant cells, does much the same thing.

The vaccines, which take 3 months to produce, are given in 5 injections spaced over 6 months.

The vaccine was given to follicular lymphoma patients who had received the standard CHOP chemotherapy treatment (the same one I had, minus the Rituxan), and who had gone into a remission lasting longer than 6 months (mine lasted 8 months). Those patients in the trial who received BiovaxID did significantly better than those in the control group: 44.2 months without a relapse, on the average, for those in the vaccine group, as compared with 30.6 months for those in the control group.

Dr. Schuster is calling for a new clinical trial, to see how the results will come out for those treated with R-CHOP (CHOP + Rituxan), as I was.

I wonder how long it will be before the vaccine is available, outside of clinical trials. I wonder, also, to which patients it would be given: whether only to people like those in the clinical trial, who are still in remission after treatment, or to people like me as well, who are out of remission. (Then again, maybe it could help me after my watching and waiting time is over, and some other treatment puts me back into remission.)

Complicated questions, to be sure. Regardless, news like this is always a source of hope.

1 comment:

cancer said...

very interesting the information about this vaccine, a few days ago I learned a similar information, and I feel great to share these things on the internet, thanks for sharing the article