19 March 2020

Therapeutic vaccine boosts survival rate in cervical cancer patients

Elize Brolsma

A therapeutic vaccine against HPV-16 (type 16 human papillomavirus) improves the survival rate in cervical cancer patients. A new study by ISA Pharmaceuticals B.V. (a Leiden-based biotechnology company) and the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) shows that this vaccine produces a more robust response if it is combined with chemotherapy. The results of this study have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Oncode Investigator Sjoerd van der Burg (LUMC) is the last author of this publication. “The vaccine has been tested in 77 patients with advanced-stage cervical cancer, over a period of about five years. The results of this phase 2 CervISA study have revealed a strong correlation between a robust immune response to the vaccine and survival rate”, he explains.

About 30 percent of those patients who mounted a robust immune response are still alive after three years. In patients with a weak response, that percentage is less than 10 percent. Data on deceased patients confirms that individuals who had developed a robust immune response survived longer than patients with a weaker response.

Use in combination with chemotherapy
Good timing is essential, if patients are to mount a robust immune response. Instead of administering the vaccine after the first round of chemotherapy, it is given to patients two weeks after the second round. This makes the vaccine much more effective. “We were already aware that chemotherapy can boost the immune response to cancer, we just didn’t understand the mechanism involved. We’ve now found the answer, and we’re putting that knowledge to good use”, says Sjoerd van der Burg.

Cancer patients have weakened immune systems, so the vaccine is not very effective if it is administered after the first round of chemotherapy. In the body, cancer cells secrete substances that trigger the release of immature myeloid cells from the bone marrow. These immature cells inhibit the action of the immune system. As a result, there is a weaker response to the vaccine. After the first round of chemotherapy, these myeloid cells may return. After the second round, however, they disappear completely, which makes the vaccine much more effective. Dr. Marij Welters (LUMC) and her team also played a major role in the publication, by uncovering these aspects of the immune system in detail.

Further strengthening the vaccine
Nine hospitals throughout the Netherlands and Belgium participated in the CervISA study, which is published on March 18. ISA Pharmaceuticals B.V. was the study’s main sponsor.

Researchers from the LUMC’s Department of Medical Oncology have been exploring the use of therapeutic vaccines in cancer for quite some time. Their work is funded by grants over a longer period from the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding). The role of myeloid cells in cancer is part of a new LUMC research funded by Oncode Institute.

As Prof. Van der Burg points out, “Now that we know how to boost the response to the vaccine, we can start exploring ways of enhancing the vaccine still further. This will enable us to achieve an even better patient survival rate.”

Would you like to know more? Read the publication at the Science Translational Medicine website.

Other News

Kops website
New biosensor measures activity of control enzyme MPS1
Researchers from the group of Oncode Investigator Geert Kops (Hubrecht Institute) have developed a biosensor that can precisely depict the activity of the MPS1 enzyme in living cells. MPS1 is responsible for accurate distribution of DNA during cell division; errors in this process can lead to cancer. Using the new biosensor, the researchers discovered that the MPS1 enzyme is significantly less active in colorectal cancer cells. The results were published in the scientific journal Current Biology on the 3rd of September.
Bianca-OliviaNita
Compounds
Pre-existing immune-resistant cancer cells identified in melanoma
Researchers at the Netherlands Cancer Institute, led by Oncode Investigator Daniel Peeper with Julia Boshuizen as first author, have discovered a cluster of tumor cells that are refractory to immunotherapy and that exists even prior to treatment. This finding, which was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, may lead to new therapies that eliminate cancer more effectively.
ElizeBrolsma

<span>Elize</span><span>Brolsma</span>

Elize is part of Oncode’s communication team. She has over 10 years of experience in the com-munication industry, both for commercial and non-profit organisations. After obtaining her bache-lor and master degree in communication at Utrecht University, Elize worked as a communication professional at a research institute, PR agency, law firm and internet company. She has a strong focus on external communications and Public Relations. At Oncode - together with her colleagues - Elize produces the monthly newsletters for Oncode Investigators & Researchers and the Oncode digital magazine. She publishes content for the Oncode website and is responsible for all social media channels. She enjoys discussing science with researchers and support them in their outreach.
11 impact value 1
Convey impact, get funding
In order to give our community hands-on advice on how to improve their grant writing, we hosted a 90- minute interactive webinar: Get Funding: Convey the impact of your science.
AmberLiu