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Vaccine to Possibly Treat Head and Neck Cancer

Conventional vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize the particular “antigens” displayed by foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. When it comes to cancer, the situation is a bit different, because of the way the mutated cells divide. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are looking into the amazing recovery story of [...]

Conventional vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize the particular “antigens” displayed by foreign invaders such as bacteria or viruses. When it comes to cancer, the situation is a bit different, because of the way the mutated cells divide.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania are looking into the amazing recovery story of a man who went from having head and neck cancer, which spread to his lymph nodes and skin, to complete remission following an experimental vaccine with Opdivo. Surprising as it might sound, this is not the only case of apparent miraculous recovery, several reports had recently surfaced regarding HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) vaccines having a similar effect.

The drug in question, MEDI0457, was initially developed by Inovio using technology pioneered at Penn University. It is based on a DNA ring, called plasmid, that codes the cells to produce two HPV antigens. The procedure involves injecting the vaccine into the patient’s muscle and then a small electrical pulse is applied to the skin to allow it to permeate the cells.

In a clinical trial conducted on 22 patients that had received conventional treatment for head and neck cancers, either surgery or chemotherapy, Opdivo vaccines were administered. In eighty percent of cases, elevated T cell activity could be noticed even three months after the last dose was given. One patient that had relapsed was put through another course of vaccination and eight weeks later, the cancer was gone.

Charu Aggarwal, the oncologist leading the study, is very optimistic and says his team is very excited to continue testing and reproduce the results on a larger scale.

While these findings seem very hopeful, more trials are needed to confirm initial data.

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