Jefferson University launches colon cancer vaccine trial

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More than 140,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year. It is a leading cause of death from cancer in both men and women.

Currently, the first line of treatment is surgery, which removes the tumor and offers patients whose cancer is caught at an early stage a good opportunity for long-term survival. However, if the cancer does return – often in new parts of the body – the recurrence is more difficult to treat.

Clinician-researchers at Jefferson are testing a vaccine for patients with colorectal cancer. The goal is to treat patients with the vaccine, following surgery to remove the tumor, and boost the patient’s own immune response to target and destroy any remaining cancer cells in the body.

First, the researchers identified a protein expressed by the colon cancer that acts as an identification tag. Much like flu vaccines train the immune system to fight cells infected with flu virus, this experimental cancer vaccine would teach the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells expressing this marker that begin to grow in new locations throughout the body.

“In this trial, we hope to see patients develop a strong immune response to the target protein,” says immunologist Adam Snook, PhD, a research instructor in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Thomas Jefferson University and lead researcher of the vaccine.  ”A strong immune response would give us hope that the vaccine is working as we expect.”

The final test – whether the cancer returns or not – won’t be known for a number of years and additional clinical trials. If the vaccine does work as expected, one shot could both protect patients against the cancer cells that remain in their system after surgery and offer lifelong protection from a recurrence

Jefferson University Hospitals

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