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April 26, 2019

Jefferson researchers develop novel vaccine for colorectal cancer

Proven safe in a small sample of human subjects, the next phase of testing can commence

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Colorectal Cancer 04262019 Source/Image licensed by Ingram Image


A new vaccine developed by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia could one day change the way doctors treat some cases of colorectal cancer.

Surgery is a cure for many colorectal cancer patients, but prognosis is dim for those with a reoccurrence of the disease, according to a news release from Jefferson via Eureka. The vaccine could train a patient's immune system to attack colon cancer that had spread pre-surgery, if larger-scale trials prove effective.

A phase 1 clinical trial – with a small sample of human subjects – demonstrated the approach is safe, researchers said. The results were published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

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"The patients treated had no signs of serious adverse events and samples of their blood contained markers of immune activation – an early indication that the vaccine could activate immune cells to fight colorectal tumors and metastases," the announcement read. "Further tests to determine if the vaccine is effective at slowing tumor growth are forthcoming."

"There is an urgent need to understand what fuels colorectal cancer growth, and to harness that knowledge for developing novel therapies," Karen E. Knudsen, Ph.D., executive vice president of oncology services and director of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Jefferson Health, said in the release. "This pivotal study provides some of the first evidence that it may be possible to safely direct a patient's own immune system to seek and destroy this cancer type. This is a true milestone – made possible through the scientists and clinicians in our colorectal cancer team working in synchrony."

Incidence of colon cancer in the United States is on the rise, especially among younger people. It is  the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the United States and worldwide.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health and Targeted Diagnostic and Therapeutics Inc., a West Chester-based biotechnology company.

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