ATLANTA -- May 15, 1999 -- A new study suggests that the administration of an experimental cancer vaccine following autologous stem cell transplant can increase survival and decrease relapse in ovarian and breast cancer patients when compared to the stem cell transplant procedure alone. The data was presented today at the 35th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Atlanta, May 15-18, 1999.
The research team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, led by Leona Holmberg, M.D., Ph.D., and Brenda Sandmaier, M.D., treated 40 cancer patients (11 high-risk stage II/III breast, 22 stage IV breast and 7 stage III/IV ovarian) with high-dose chemotherapy followed by autologous/syngeneic stem cell transplantation.
Twenty-six of the 40 patients also received five doses of THERATOPE (R) vaccine (STn-KLH), a therapeutic vaccine being developed by Biomira, Inc. of Alberta, Canada (NASDAQ: BIOM) (TSE, ME: BRA) that induces the body's immune system to mount a response against cancerous cells.
All patients were treated between Sept. 1, 1995 and Nov. 18, 1997. To gain preliminary evidence of the potential efficacy of the THERATOPE vaccine, the outcome of vaccinated patients was retrospectively compared to the outcome of patients not vaccinated.
Investigators found that the chance of death was more than 2 times greater among patients in the control group compared to patients vaccinated with THERATOPE(R) vaccine. The chance of relapse was approximately 1.7 times greater for patients in the control group compared to those vaccinated. In addition, those vaccinated patients with the highest amount of specific killing activity against STn-bearing cancer cells appeared to remain the longest in remission.
According to Dr. Holmberg, M.D., Ph.D., THERATOPE(R) vaccine was well tolerated after autologous stem cell transplant and in preliminary data may have improved outcomes. These results need to be considered within the debate over hematopoietic stem cell transplant as a treatment for advanced stage IV disease.
"The use of immunotherapy is more likely to be successful when there is significant reduction in tumor burden," added Dr. Sandmaier, "In advanced disease states, more aggressive therapy combined with therapy to stimulate the patient's own immune system may prove to be effective therapy."
The cancer vaccine used in the study, THERATOPE(R) vaccine, is currently being evaluated in a pivotal Phase III clinical trial which will involve 900 evaluable patients with metastatic breast cancer at approximately 75 sites worldwide.
ASCO's 1999 Annual Meeting is being held at the Georgia World Congress Center and features over 150 scientific and educational presentations, as well as an exhibition with over 250 industry representatives. It is the largest professional meeting on clinical data about new cancer therapies.
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is an independent, non-profit research institution dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.
Recognized internationally for its pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation, the Center has four scientific divisions collaborating to form a unique environment for conducting basic and applied science.
One of 35 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country, it is the only one in the Northwest. More information is available on the Hutchinson Center web site for more information at <www.fhcrc.org>.
Biomira is a biotechnology company specializing in the development of innovative therapeutic approaches to cancer management. The commitment to the treatment of cancer currently focuses on the development of synthetic vaccines and novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy. We are the Cancer Vaccine People(TM) .
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