tests vaccine for ovarian cancer
cancer researcher is working on a unique vaccine that may use
the bodys cancer
cells to trigger an immune reaction. Dr. William P. Irvin is enrolling
women in a clinical study to test a new vaccine for ovarian cancer,
the most deadly of the gynecological cancers.
percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer will have advanced
stage disease at the time of their initial diagnosis, because
no effective screening program is currently available for early
detection, said Irvin, associate professor of clinical obstetrics
and gynecology and principal investigator of the vaccine.
purpose of the vaccine is to prolong patients remission
after they have completed primary treatment for ovarian cancer,
specifically surgery and chemotherapy, Irvin said.
26,000 U.S. women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year,
and an estimated 15,000 died from the disease. Lack of effective
screening makes ovarian cancer the fourth most deadly cancer for
women, after lung, breast and colon cancers, and causes more deaths
than all other gynecological cancers combined, he said.
standard surgery and chemotherapy, approximately 50 percent of
patients with advanced stage ovarian cancer will attain disease
remission, he said. Unfortunately, 40
to 60 percent of these patients will subsequently develop recurrent
cancer and will ultimately die from their disease. Anything we
can do to prolong the remission, even make it permanent, is our
do not have specific antigens for ovarian cancer as they do for
prostate cancer or melanoma. As a result, Irvins study relies
upon the use of a vaccine made from the individual patients
cancer cells, irrradiated so they cannot reproduce.
vaccine we make will be unique to each patients cancer,
as opposed to a generic vaccine that would be designed to apply
to all patients ovarian cancer, he said.
hope is that when the patients own reconstructed cancer
cells are injected back into the body, the patients immune
system will recognize the antigens unique to their ovarian malignancy
and be stimulated to destroy any undetectable cancer cells remaining
after treatment, Irvin said.
cells always exist after ovarian cancer surgery but are generally
undetectable and held responsible for the ultimate recurrence
of the cancer. Irvin hopes that the vaccine will alert the immune
system to the foreign ovarian tumor cells and sustain
a womans remission longer.
has also begun work on a second vaccine protocol to identify the
specific antigens that may be unique to all ovarian cancer patients.
He hopes to develop a generic vaccine instead of having to develop
one unique to each patient.
are moving into a new realm of cancer treatment, one that targets
cancer cells at the very basic biologic mechanisms that enable
them to grow and metastasize, he said. This therapy
is being directed on the molecular level, through immunotherapy,
gene therapy and inhibiting tumor growth. Confronting cancer on
the biological level, rather than with new chemotherapies that
inadvertently harm healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, will
ultimately be less toxic for patients.
current vaccine study is funded by the Ovarian Cancer Research
Fund and the U.Va.
Cancer Center core grant from the National Cancer Institute
of the National Institutes of Health. Twelve participants will
be enrolled in the studys first stage. If the preliminary
results are positive, more patients will subsequently be enrolled,