Lymphoma Vaccine Trial: One Step Forward in Long Trek

Charlie Schmidt


J Natl Cancer Inst. 2009;101(18):1228-1232. 

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At this year's American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, researchers presented phase III findings on BiovaxID, a vaccine for follicular lymphoma, which is a common B-cell malignancy. Stephen J. Schuster, M.D., an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, who presented the data in a plenary session, reported a 13.6-month increase in median disease-free survival among follicular lymphoma patients, compared with control subjects who received a more generalized immune stimulator targeted at cancerous B cells.

Cancer treatment vaccines have been under development for more than two decades. Efforts have yet to produce a single U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved product, but interest in these vaccines remains high. Such vaccines could theoretically spare healthy tissues, offer lifetime immunity against a patient's cancer, and possibly eradicate all cancer cells from the body. The trial for BiovaxID, which is made by the Tampa-based company Biovest International, also raised considerable interest in part because follicular lymphoma is the second most common among the non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Collectively, these illnesses strike 65,000 Americans a year.

"We know the immune system plays an important role in so many cancers, but we still don't know enough about how we can get it to work for us," said Sonali Smith, M.D., associate director of the lymphoma program at the University of Chicago Medical Center, who was not involved in the study. "We're moving slowly in this area. This new study [with BiovaxID] was a step forward, but it was a baby step."

Sonali Smith, M.D.


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