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Personalized Vaccine Fights Ovarian Cancer

Jul 9, 2018 9:57:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

woman punch out for against cancerOvarian cancer, while common, is challenging to treat, but a new study is looking into an immunotherapeutic approach using a vaccine from dendritic cells.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death overall in women, but is the leading cause of death due to cancer of the female reproductive system. Ovarian cancer continues to be a challenge to treat, remission is difficult to achieve, and recurrence is common. The treatment approaches used or being studied involve chemotherapy, targeted therapy (to limit damage to normal cells), and immunotherapy. The study of immunotherapeutic approaches is ongoing in order to limit adverse effects in patients and to spare normal tissue from the toxicity seen with chemotherapy. To this end, researchers recently studied an immunotherapeutic approach using a vaccine derived from dendritic cells.

Vaccines are used to expand the population of T cells that are tumor specific. Researchers used dendritic cells, antigen presenting cells, loaded with a lysate derived from a patient’s own ovarian tumor. The vaccine treatment was combined with the use of two drugs used in patients with ovarian cancer, the chemotherapeutic agent cyclophosphamide and the targeted cancer drug bevacizumab. This combination was chosen because cyclophosphamide could enhance vaccination, and its use at low doses with bevacizumab appears to be a safe treatment for women with ovarian cancer.

Ten women with ovarian cancer received the vaccine once a week for three weeks and the drug combination, and 8 of those responded well and remained alive at the two-year point. However, only half of 56 patients who received chemotherapy alone were living after two years.  Of a group of patients who were treated with just bevacizumab and dendritic cell vaccine, only 30% survived after two years.

The response to the immunotherapy was also evidenced by an increase in interferon-gamma, a cytokine produced by T cells responding to dendritic cells, in patients who received vaccine made from autologous tumor lysate-loaded dendritic cells. The studied vaccine can amplify T cell responses against new epitopes from tumor mutations indicating a broad antitumor effect. This was achieved without serious adverse events; therefore, the treatment approach appears to be safe and effective for patients with ovarian cancer.

At HemaCare, we provide a variety of cells and tissues to support immunotherapy research, including T cells and disease-state samples.



Healy, M., & Healy, M. (2018). Ovarian cancer vaccine that boosts immune response improved patient survivalWashington Post. Retrieved 18 May 2018, from

Topics: Dendritic Cells, T Cells, Vaccine Research, Immunotherapy (Immunology)

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