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Scope 48 - The story so far

30 July 2012

By combining the disciplines of immunology, cell biology and drug discovery in a programme that involves immunologists, chemists, molecular biologists and clinicians, this research has the potential to launch a new era in cancer treatment.

It is clear that different cancer vaccination strategies or immunotherapies will benefit different people, in much the same way that some individual’s immune systems seem to work better than others. The only way of knowing if a cancer vaccine will work in patients, after having shown promising results in experimental models, is to carry out a clinical trial.

Over the past fourteen years the Malaghan Institute has made significant progress in translating our basic cancer research into real outcomes for patients – a ‘bench to bedside’ philosophy that has led to three clinical trials of dendritic cell based vaccines for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

The GBM trial was completed earlier this year and supported the feasibility and safety of using the cancer vaccine in combination with chemotherapy to treat GBM patients. GBM is a highly aggressive brain tumour with an extremely poor prognosis, so the fact that the combination therapy reduced tumour size in some patients is a promising outcome. Different options for improving the vaccine further are currently being explored.

The cancer trials are supported by a close working relationship with clinicians from the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre and Wellington Hospital, and access to a laboratory that operates according to Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines at the Malaghan Institute.

Complementing our clinical trials is an extensive basic immunology research programme involving several of the Institute’s research groups, aimed at understanding anti-tumour immune responses and how they can be more effectively elicited with vaccines.


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