Brain Cancer Vaccines: Found In Translation

It may be the stuff that dreams are made of, at least the dreams of those patients and families who are dealing with malignant gliomas, a group of brain cancers that are difficult to treat and often fatal. It’s called SurVaxM, a new brain tumor vaccine developed at Roswell Park.  Last year, we announced that the vaccine was being tested in a phase I clinical trial. That trial is testing the safety and immunological effects of the vaccine in patients with two types of brain cancer: glioblastoma multiforme and anaplastic glioma.

The peptide vaccine, pioneered in the laboratory at Roswell Park Cancer Institute by Robert Fenstermaker, MD, and Michael Ciesielski, PhD, targets a small protein molecule called survivin, which is produced by over 80 percent of all brain cancers. Survivin, which helps cancer cells “survive” under stressful conditions, is present almost exclusively in diseased cells.  The vaccine stimulates the immune system to recognize survivin as a foreign molecule and kill tumor cells in the process.  

Encouraged by the vaccine’s early successes in preclinical studies, and armed with the new knowledge gleaned from this most recent clinical trial, Dr. Fenstermaker and his research team plan to move into the next phase of research – a phase II clinical study – in early 2014, provided that funding and FDA approval are in place.

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