Vaccine Halts the Spread of Metastatic Cancer


SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Researchers at UC San Diego Health and the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology are working on a cancer vaccine that’s specific for each patient. It’s specifically created according to a patient’s own cancer mutations and immune system. It’s a clinical trial that is only for people with metastatic cancer.

Tamara Strauss can’t wait to take her therapy dog Luna back for hospital visits. She has to wait because she’s in the cancer vaccine trial at UC San Diego health. She is patient number one.

Strauss “Having cancer, I mean anything that presents itself as a solution or a cure, you’re going to jump on the bandwagon.”

Strauss beat pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer twice. Now it’s back, and stage four. Her doctors say everyone’s cancer and immune system are different, so they are treating them differently.

“If we were going to think about curing patients with metastatic disease, with advanced cancer, then we had to design therapies that were really individual,” said Ezra Cohen, MD, Associate Director of Translational Science at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.

(Read Full Interview)

The team tested Strauss’ tumor and identified neoantigens, or mutations her immune system responds to. They cultured the neoantigens with Strauss’ t-cells and gave her a series of three vaccines. Dr. Cohen said they worried the t-cells would reach the tumor and be deactivated. So they added Keytruda.

Dr. Cohen said, “What the Keytruda does, is that essentially, it keeps those t-cells from falling asleep once they get to the tumor, and so hopefully, once that happens, those t-cells destroy the cancer.”

It’s only been four months since Strauss began the trial, but a mid-treatment CT scan was promising.

Strauss’ parents donated a million dollars to fund this trial, hoping to help her. They’ve already lost another daughter to cancer. The trial will enroll ten patients and only has three now. Doctors are looking for patients with any kind of slow-growing metastatic cancer.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Robert Walko, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4546

BACKGROUND: Metastatic cancer is another name for stage 4 cancer. This means that the cancer has spread to other tissues, organs and lymph nodes. When the cancer spreads like this, it is called metastasis. The metastatic cancer keeps the name of its primary cancer even though it might have spread; for example, if lung cancer spreads to the brain, it is just called metastatic lung cancer not brain cancer. Cancer spreads by going to the tissue first, and then it moves to the lymph nodes or blood vessels. The blood vessels offer access to organs in the body. When the cancer cells start to grow in the tissue, they grow their own blood vessels to create their own blood supply and get bigger. Symptoms include headaches, seizures, shortness of breath and dizziness.


TREATMENTS: Metastasis has a few treatments for patients. Age, where the cancer started, and where it has spread are all factors to determine the type of treatment that can be given. Patients can either go through chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or target therapy or they can try go through surgery or radiation therapy to treat that certain section. The treatment might not be a cure to end the metastasis, but it can slow down the growth of the cancer and reduce the symptoms. Depending on the cancer, patients can live months or even years after being diagnosed with metastatic cancer.


 NEW TECHNOLOGY: Vaccines are a form of immunotherapy. They are usually given during the beginning stages, but that is changing. In a new study, there are vaccines that can be used to help not only stop the growth of the cancer, but it can also help prevent it from coming back and remove any leftover cancer cells from other treatments. There are four types of cancer vaccines: antigen, whole cell, DNA and dendritic cell. Antigen helps stimulate the immune system to attack the cancer by using the protein antigen to help. Whole cell uses a patient’s own cancer cells to treat. DNA vaccines take the DNA from the cancer cells and put them into cells of the immune system to help them identify and eliminate other cancer cells.  Dendritic cells are grown in a lab and used to help strengthen the immune system to get rid of the cancer that is in the system. There are many clinical trials to learn more about what is going on.



Yadira Galindo, Media Relations


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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Ezra Cohen, MD, Associate Director of Translational Science, Moores Cancer Center

Read the entire Q&A