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The Vigil vaccine is a genetically engineered vaccine made from cancer cells acquired from patients during surgery.

Published Apr 22nd, 2020

By Carol McPhail

Vaccines made from patients’ own tumors could prolong the lives of women with ovarian cancer, particularly those without a BRCA gene mutation, according to a clinical study led by researchers at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute.

The phase two clinical trial involved 91 ovarian cancer patients who had completed primary chemotherapy and then randomized to a Vigil vaccine or a placebo. The Vigil vaccine is a genetically engineered vaccine made from cancer cells acquired from patients during surgery. Investigators found that the vaccine showed convincing improvements in survival, with remarkably low toxicity.

“This vaccine is as targeted as targeted therapy can get,” said Rodney Rocconi, M.D., Elsie Colle Chair of Oncology Research and professor of gynecologic oncology at USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute. “It uses specific techniques to recruit the immune system to target each patient’s specific cancer antigens, ensuring the vaccine specifically attacks the correct target, the cancer.”

Patients who received the Vigil vaccine showed an extended cancer-free survival from 8.4 months (for the control group) to 12.6 months. When stratifying patients for BRCA gene mutations, those patients without a BRCA gene mutation who received the vaccine demonstrated enhanced efficacy for both cancer-free survival (19.4 months versus 14.8 months) and overall survival.

The results revive the notion that immunotherapy could help ovarian cancer patients, Rocconi said. “These significant results, specifically in patients without BRCA gene mutation, are a novel discovery that could affect the standard of care for those BRCA-negative patients, which has not changed in nearly 25 years.”

Unfortunately, the prognosis for patients with advanced epithelial ovarian cancer remains poor, Rocconi said. Although most women have a complete response to initial therapy, the majority of women experience a recurrence. As such, any improvements on extending the cancer-free interval or reducing the chance of recurrence is a tremendous step in the treatment of this disease, he said.

The findings were accepted as a late breaking abstract for the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology and were published online in Targeted Oncology on April 13.

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