Custom-made Vaccines Double Survival Rates In Ovarian Cancer Patients During Early Trials

An x-ray of a patient with ovarian cancer. Jarva Jar/Shutterstock

A pilot study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows promising results for a personalized vaccine designed to treat ovarian cancer, almost doubling the number of patients who survived to the two-year mark.

Every year, roughly 22,000 women in the US are diagnosed with ovarian cancer; a type of cancer that is notoriously difficult to detect and treat because it is so often symptomless in the early stages.

Medics usually recommend a combination of surgery and chemotherapy, but while patients often notice a positive response to begin with, the majority of patients relapse and develop a resistance to chemotherapy. Of those 22,000 women diagnosed with cancer, 14,000 (64 percent) will probably die as a direct result of the disease.

So researchers at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research turned to an innovative new solution: personalized vaccines.

The custom-made vaccine is produced from a piece of the patient's tumor and a sample of the patient's immune cells. The immune cells are first extracted from a blood sample. Then they are trained to attack and "gobble up" any strange-looking organic matter and deliver these toxins to the T cells to stimulate an immune response.

The vaccine has been tested in an (admittedly small) clinical trial consisting of 25 women. While larger, randomized, and placebo-controlled trials will have to take place before it can be made available to members of the public, the results so far are extremely encouraging.

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