UNC study targets new vaccine for bladder cancer
Posted June 19, 2014
Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the United States.
About 74,000 Americans will be diagnosed with it this year, and 15,000 will die from the disease.
Even with the standard treatments, 65 percent of high-risk bladder cancer patients have their cancer return within two years.
Heat Biologics, a Durham-based pharmaceutical company, is working on a new vaccine, called Impact Therapy, that targets cancer cells with minimal side effects.
“We’re working to harness a patient’s own immune system to kill the tumor,” said Melissa Price of Heat Biologics. “A lot of conventional treatments, they kill all cells, and they don't know a good cell from a bad cell.”
The vaccine is a modified cancer cell line injected through a syringe. The cells cannot grow inside the patient, but they alert the immune system to attack the cancer both in the bladder and anywhere in the blood stream.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the only trial in North Carolina for the vaccine. There are five active study sites across the country.
The vaccine is in trials both in bladder cancer and lung cancer patients.
WRAL health expert Dr. Allen Mask said using vaccines to fight cancer is not new. One approach has been to tailor a vaccine from the patient's own cells to fight cancer.
That process is time consuming.
“But this vaccine is ‘off the shelf,’ meaning they could mass produce this vaccine and have it ready to help any number of patients,” Mask said.
The trials will examine how often the vaccines are needed and will evaluate the patients over a year’s time. Participants will get both the new vaccine therapy and the standard of care for bladder cancer.