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“Off the shelf” cancer vaccine could help prevent the recurrence of colorectal and pancreatic cancer

A phase 1 study of the drug ELI-002 reveals promising results, according to researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The vaccine is still in the early stages of development, but so far it has shown results in preventing the recurrence of cancers linked to genetic mutations in the KRAS G12D and KRAS G12R genes.

The phase 1 human trial of the study is called “AMPLIFY-201 trial”, which was funded by Elicio Therapeutics, the makers of ELI-002. Colorectal and pancreatic cancer were responsible for more than 100,000 deaths last year, making them the second and third leading causes of cancer fatalities respectively according to seer.cancer.gov.

The term “Off the shelf” vaccine refers to vaccines that do not need to be tailored to an individual person and can easily be added as an adjuvant cancer therapy according to medicalnewstoday.com. To be clear, the goal of the new vaccine is not to treat colorectal and pancreatic cancer, rather it is to prevent the recurrence after it has been successfully cleared through traditional treatment. The potential success of this drug would still be advantageous because KRAS mutations are found in up to one in four cases of all forms of cancer and in colon cancer particularly the number is closer to more than one in three. KRAS genes are partly responsible for regulating cell division and growth, but many cancers are associated with mutations in this strand of genes. Dr. Shubham Pant, lead investigator for the trial, explains that the vaccine works by teaching the immune system to target mutations in the KRAS genes.

“What we are trying to do is we’re trying to kill micrometastatic disease. That means a disease that you cannot see on scans, but still, you know that the disease is going to come back in four to six months because it’s hanging around. We basically use this vaccine to kill that,” stated Dr. Pant via medicalnewstoday.com.

So far, Pant and his team have observed a T-cell response, which is an indicator that the vaccine has successfully activated the immune system in many participants of the trial. All participants who received the highest dose of the drug so far were found to produce a T-cell response. Additionally, stronger T-cell responses were associated with greater chances of survival and lower recurrence of cancer.

It was further observed that patients needed to hit a certain threshold for their T-cell response to see benefits. As of now, participants who had a T-cell response higher than the median did not have a recurrence of cancer (follow-up is ongoing), those who did not meet this threshold had an average recurrence of cancer within 4 months. These are still promising results, in the world of oncological research, many correlated studies are feeding off each other in hopes of finding solutions for delivery methods, new vaccines, gene editing, and all sorts of ways to not only prevent the recurrence of certain cancers but also to treat and prevent cancer all together.

You can find a full summary of the findings for the ongoing AMPLIFY-201 trial at nature.com.

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