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Antigenics vaccine promising in small cancer study By Toni Clark Reuters November 24, 2008

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BOSTON (Reuters) – Biotechnology company Antigenics Inc said on Monday that its Oncophage vaccine extended survival in a small study of patients with brain cancer.

Results from the 12-patient study, which were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuro-Oncology in Las Vegas, showed that patients who were vaccinated with Oncophage following brain cancer surgery lived on average for 10.5 months.

This compares with a historical median survival post-surgery of 6.5 months. All patients enrolled in the trial had received surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, and had seen their cancer recur.

Four patients in the study lived for about 12 months, one lived for 2.5 years. The least successful patient lived four months.

In 2006, Oncophage failed to meet the main goal of a kidney cancer trial, making its approval in the United States unlikely. It has also failed a trial to treat skin cancer.

However, it was approved earlier this year in Russia to treat a subset of kidney cancer patients whose cancer has been fully removed following surgery and has not spread to other parts of the body.

Oncophage is designed to reprogram the body’s immune system to target only cancer cells bearing the fingerprint of the patient’s particular cancer, leaving healthy tissue intact.

Trials of only 12 people typically have limited significance as the results could be due to chance.

But Dr. Andrew Parsa, the lead investigator on the trial — who receives no compensation from Antigenics — said the reason the results are interesting is that they correlate to a patient-specific, measurable immune response.

In other words, the clinical response was related to a visible change in the patients’ immune system.

“This study demonstrated significant tumor-specific immune responses leading to a proliferation of T-cells which did not exist in these patients before vaccination,” said Parsa, who is associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “We look forward to completing the Phase II portion of this study and presenting results next year.”

Results from this trial have been reviewed by the National Cancer Institute, which plans to sponsor two new trials of the vaccine in brain cancer: one in children, and the other in adults.
About 19,000 cases of glioma, the most common type of brain cancer, are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.


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