Novel immunotherapy vaccine decreases recurrence in HER2 positive breast cancer patients

One of only a few vaccines of its kind in development, GP2 has been shown to be safe and effective for breast cancer patients, reducing recurrence rates by 57%. Further, women with the highest overexpression of HER2 (known as HER2 +3) had no cancer recurrences when they were administered the vaccine after completing trastuzumab (Herceptin), a type of immunotherapy drug known as a monoclonal antibody. HER2 is an oncoprotein that promotes tumor growth and is expressed to some extent in 75-80% of breast cancers.

“This is an important and different avenue in immunotherapy research, in that we are investigating ways to prevent cancer recurrence by stimulating the immune system to treat cancer,” says principal investigator Elizabeth Mittendorf, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Surgical Oncology. “The ultimate goal is to develop a preventative tool that will minimize the risk of recurrence in women who have already had breast cancer and for whom standard therapies have failed.”

The findings are the result of a phase II randomized trial that paired the GP2 vaccine, designed to stimulate the CD8+ cells, commonly known as “killer” or “toxic” T cells, with an immune stimulant known as granulocyte/macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). The trial included 190 patients with varying levels of HER2; 89 women received the GP2 vaccine with a GM-CSF adjuvant and a control group of 91 patients received GM-CSF alone. Eight patients experienced early recurrence or developed a second malignancy and did not complete the vaccine trial. The vaccine is injected subcutaneously and the initial series consisted of monthly inoculations for six months, followed by four cycles of booster shots administered every six months thereafter. The patients were monitored for nearly three years.

For all 190 patients, including those who did not complete the trial, the disease-free survival (DFS) rate was 88% among those who received the vaccine and 81% in the control group — representing a 37% reduction in recurrence. Excluding the patients who did not complete the vaccine series, the results are higher — 94% DFS rate versus 85% who did not get GP2 — a 57% risk reduction.

Women with HER2 +3 who were administered trastuzumab as part of the standard of care prior to receiving the vaccine experienced no cases of cancer recurrence. According to Mittendorf, trastuzumab may act like a primer for the vaccine. Trastuzumab stimulates CD4+ T cells to release substances that fight cancer cells and initiates an antibody response. Thus, it may prepare the immune system, making the vaccine even more effective. MD Anderson is now testing this combination of immunotherapies in other clinical trials.

Personalized Immunotherapy

The GP2 study supports previous MD Anderson research on similar breast cancer vaccines, such as AE37, which showed a significant immune response and improved recurrence rates in triple-negative breast cancer patients. Another candidate, E75, known as NeuVax or nelipepimut-S, showed a 50% recurrence decrease in high-risk patients. Currently, NeuVax is being tested internationally in a phase III clinical trial.

“We believe many more patients will benefit in some way from immunotherapy,” says Mittendorf. “The challenge will be identifying the right immunotherapeutic approach for each individual patient. When doctors are able to do that, cancer therapy, and immunotherapy specifically, will follow a more personalized approach.”

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140905122717.htm

Newest precision medicine tool: Prostate cancer organoids

The researchers, whose results were published today in Cell, successfully grew six prostate cancer organoids from biopsies of patients with metastatic prostate cancer and a seventh organoid from a patient’s circulating tumor cells. Organoids are three-dimensional structures composed of cells that are grouped together and spatially organized like an organ. The histology, or tissue structure, of the prostate cancer organoids is highly similar to the metastasis sample from which they came. Sequencing of the metastasis samples and the matched organoids showed that each organoid is genetically identical to the patient’s cancer from which it originated.

“Identifying the molecular biomarkers that indicate whether a drug will work or why a drug stops working is paramount for the precision treatment of cancer,” said Yu Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Attending Physician in the Genitourinary Oncology Service and Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program at MSK. “But we are limited in our capacity to test drugs — especially in the prostate cancer setting, where only a handful of prostate cancer cell lines are available to researchers.”

With the addition of the seven prostate cancer organoids described in the Cell paper, Dr. Chen’s team has effectively doubled the number of existing prostate cancer cell lines.

“We now have a new resource at our disposal that captures the molecular diversity of prostate cancer. This will be an invaluable tool we can use to test drug sensitivity,” he added.

The use of organoids in studying cancer is relatively new, but the field is exploding quickly according to Dr. Chen. In 2009, Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, of the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands demonstrated that intestinal stem cells could form organoids. Dr. Clevers is the lead author on a companion piece also published in Cell today that describes how to create healthy prostate organoids. Dr. Chen’s paper is the first to demonstrate that organoids can be grown from prostate cancer samples.

The prostate cancer organoids can be used to test multiple drugs simultaneously, and Dr. Chen’s team is already retrospectively comparing the drugs given to each patient against the organoids for clues about why the patient did or didn’t respond to therapy. In the future, it’s possible that drugs could be tested on a patient’s organoid before being given to the patient to truly personalize treatment.

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men — about 233,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2014. It is also the second leading cause of cancer death in men; 1 in 36 men will die of the disease.

Despite its prevalence, prostate cancer has been difficult to replicate in the lab. Many mutations that play a role in its growth are not represented in the cell lines currently available. Cell lines can also differ from their original source, and because they are composed of single cells, they do not offer the robust information that an organoid — which more closely resembles a living organ — can provide.

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904131142.htm

Study identifies gene network behind untreatable leukemia, possible treatment target

Scientists from the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute (CBDI) at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center report their results in a study posted online Sept. 4 by Cell Reports.

The specific forms of AML and MDS in the current study involve deletions on the arm of a specific chromosome in blood cells (del(5q). In patients with less aggressive forms of del(5q) MDS, the percentage of bone marrow blasts in their blood (the earliest, most immature cells of the myeloid cell line) is less than 5 percent. This means treatment prognosis for those patients typically is good, according to the study’s lead investigator, Daniel Starczynowski PhD, a researcher in the division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, part of the CBDI at Cincinnati Children’s.

“Unfortunately, a large portion of del(5q) AML and MDS patients have increased number of bone marrow blasts and additional chromosomal mutations,” Starczynowski said. “These patients have very poor prognosis because the disease is very resistant to available treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Finding new therapies is important and this study identifies new therapeutic possibilities.”

The researchers conducted their study in human AML/MDS cells and mouse models of del(5q) AML/MDS. They found that reduced expression of a certain gene in blood cells (miR-146a) led to activation of a molecular signaling network involving several components of NF-kB, one of which involved a protein called p62 — a critical regulator of cell metabolism, cellular remodeling and certain cancers.

Deletion of the miR-146a gene led to overexpression of p62, which caused sustained activation of what researchers identified as an NF-kB signaling network. This fueled the survival and aggressive growth of leukemic cells in cells and in mouse models.

Earlier attempts in previous studies to directly inhibit NF-kB (a key molecular facilitator to the leukemic process) have not proven successful, according to investigators on the current paper. So the authors performed follow-up laboratory tests to look for possible vulnerabilities to NF-kB and a potential workaround by targeting instead p62 within the NF-kB signaling network.

The researcher next tested inhibiting/knocking down p62 as an experimental treatment strategy in mouse models of leukemia and in human cells. The authors reported that targeting p62 prevented expansion of leukemic cells in mouse models and reduced the number of leukemia cell colonies by 80 percent in human AML/MDS cells.

Starczynowski stressed that significant additional research is needed to further verify the findings and learn more about the molecular processes involved. He also cautioned that laboratory results in mouse models do not necessarily translate to humans, and it isn’t known at this time how the findings might be directly applicable to clinical treatment.

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140904131603.htm