Could a Patient-Derived Vaccine Act Against Acute Myeloid Leukemia?

Made by combining immune cells, cancer cells, it's kept some patients in remission for nearly five years
Made by combining immune cells, cancer cells, it's kept some patients in remission for nearly five years

HealthDay News — A vaccine made from patient-derived acute myeloid leukemia cells and dendritic cells can dramatically increase the chance of long-term survival against acute myeloid leukemia, according to research published in the December 7 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

David Avigan, MD, chief of hematological malignancies and director of the Cancer Vaccine Program at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues obtained bone marrow samples from patients prior to chemotherapy, and from those samples drew both acute myeloid leukemia cells and dendritic cells. The researchers then combined the two, creating a leukemia cell that draws attention to itself because it also carries immune-stimulating traits. The research team then injected patients with the vaccine after they entered remission through chemotherapy. 

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The vaccine has produced long-term remission for 71% of a small group of 17 vaccinated patients with an average age of 63, the researchers reported. Because the vaccine relies on the patient's own immune cells, rather than donated cells, it avoids the toxic side effects associated with bone marrow transplants, Avigan told HealthDay.

"We're using the whole tumor cell, and that allows us to stimulate a response that's broad, that's against multiple targets, and that's against targets that are unique to that individual patient," Avigan said. "It's absolutely different for each person. It's made for each person. And what's exciting about this is it's not that hard to make."

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