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Scope 48 - Where to from here?

30 July 2012

To address the growing burden melanoma imposes on our society, we have brought together the best expertise in New Zealand to design, manufacture and trial new anti-cancer vaccines.

Next year Associate Professor Ian Hermans’ research team will trial a new vaccine in melanoma patients. This is part of a five year Health Research Council of New Zealand funded programme being undertaken in collaboration with the Capital & Coast District Health Board, Industrial Research Limited, Cancer Trials New Zealand and The University of Auckland. One of the improvements made to the new cancer vaccine is the inclusion of the synthetic glycolipid alpha-GalCer, which A/Prof Ian Hermans’ basic research has shown induces significantly stronger anti-tumour responses than vaccines without it.

Another goal of our ongoing research is to simplify how the cancer vaccine is prepared. Some patients enrolled in the GBM trial were unable to be vaccinated simply because our scientists could not isolate enough immune cells from their blood to prepare the vaccine. It also takes weeks to grow dendritic cells for the vaccine, which is a long time to wait for patients with aggressive cancers such as GBM.

Research is currently underway therefore to determine if cancer vaccines that deliver the tumour antigens to the dendritic cells already present inside the cancer patient, rather than having the cells present in the vaccine could be the solution, and early laboratory studies have been very promising. With further work we believe this simplified cell-free vaccine will enable immunotherapy to be accessible to more patients, thus redefining how we treat cancer in the future.


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