A first of its kind treatment vaccine has moved into a phase I clinical trial for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Cancer Research UK will manage the initial clinical development of AST-VAC2, a promising immunotherapy derived from a standardised human embryonic stem cell line.
If shown to be safe and effective, it’s hoped that AST-VAC2 could be used as an additional treatment for patients who no longer have advanced disease but whose lung cancer is at high risk of coming back, or in combination with other treatments for patients with advanced disease.
Dr Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development, said: “This vaccine trial is a pioneering approach to improving treatment for lung cancer, the biggest cause of cancer death worldwide.
“By coupling our expertise with a leading biotechnology company, we’ve accelerated the development of this experimental treatment by years.”
The vaccine is designed to kick-start the body’s immune system. They present molecules called antigens on their surface and orchestrate an immune response against cells bearing the same antigens.
Previous similar cell therapies have been made using patients’ own cells, but this process is costly, slow and inefficient. By using this pioneering approach of growing mature cells from a single human embryonic stem cell line in the laboratory, it’s hoped AST-VAC2 will overcome these challenges.
This trial will demonstrate the feasibility of manufacturing at a clinical scale as well as testing whether it’s a safe and effective**.
Professor Christian Ottensmeier, chief investigator for the trial and head of the Southampton Experimental Cancer Medicines Centre (ECMC), said: “Vaccines that boost the immune system to recognise and fight cancer could become a routine part of treatment for certain patients in the future, but we need to make them cheaper and easier to produce.
“With its potential to be used off-the-shelf, AST-VAC2 is an exciting development in the rapidly evolving field of immunotherapy.”
*The trial is open to patients who are HLA2+ with advanced NSCLC (metastatic or locally advanced disease) in the first instance, with the expansion phase open to patients who are HLA A2+ and disease free after treatment for NSCLC.
**Efficacy of AST-VAC2 will be assessed by 2-year overall survival, time to relapse and measurement of immune response.
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres are jointly funded by Cancer Research UK, the National Institute for Health Research in England and the Departments of Health for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You can view the cancer Research UK’s press release, including more detailed information on the drugs trial and development, in full here.