Melanoma is the most aggressive skin cancer because of its high metastatic potential. According to data fromNational Cancer Institute, the number of new cases more than tripled between 1980 and 2012. In mainland France, 15,404 cases and 1,783 deaths of skin cancer of this kind were recorded in 2017. For several years now, scientists from around the world have been working to develop an effective melanoma vaccine. Finally, good news comes from Dana-Farber Cancer Insitute where researchers created a personalized drug.
Progress in the development of a melanoma vaccine
American scientists want to fight against melanoma using their NeoVax vaccine adapted to each patient. They carried out a fairly promising study whose clinical trial results were presented in the review Nature Medicine January 21. Their research focused on 8 patients with stage 3 or 4 melanoma who had undergone surgery to remove the tumor. To assess the long-term effects of their drug, the researchers injected patients with it. Remember that these people are at high risk of recurrence.
Four years after receiving the melanoma vaccine, all 8 people survived and 2 of them had a recurrence. But how exactly does the drug work? So the NeoVax is created to target 20 neoantigens for each patient. These present mutant proteins specific for the tumor of the skin of the subjects. The medicine contains parts of these neoantigens called epitopes which stimulate the immune response that spares healthy cells.
Why are we talking about a personalized vaccine? So, to develop the NeoVax, scientists studied the DNA sequence present in a participant’s tumor to determine key epitopes. Once these are injected, the T lymphocytes directly attack the neoantigens in order to kill the cancer cells. The researchers found a persistent immune response as the T cells remembered their targets.