The University of New Mexico Cancer Center recently enrolled its first patient in a phase 3 international clinical trial to test a personalized vaccine against metastatic kidney cancer. Kidney cancer has proven particularly difficult to treat with chemotherapy, and numerous attempts to create a kidney cancer vaccine have not improved survival rates. The phase 3 trial at the UNM Cancer Center tests a promising new approach: it uses a person’s own kidney cancer cells to make a vaccine tailored to kill those cells.
“We’ve known for decades that there was an intimate relationship between the immune system and kidney cancer,” says Richard Lauer, MD, FACP. Lauer serves as Chief Medical Officer and as principal investigator for the clinical trial at UNM Cancer Center. He says, “We know there have been spontaneous remissions in kidney cancer in which the immune system got activated and killed the cancer cells.” But as previous vaccine attempts have shown, simply activating the immune system does not completely rid the body of kidney cancer.
“Our understanding of the immune system has become much more sophisticated,” says Lauer. The new clinical trial’s vaccine-making approach starts with the patient’s own kidney cancer cells. Through a complex series of steps, the RNA in those cells is extracted and used to activate a type of immune cell called a dendritic cell. Dendritic cells activate another type of immune cell, called a T-cell, which destroy the invaders they are trained to recognize. T-cells kill not only tumor cells but also cells from the tumor that have spread to other parts of the body.
Other kidney cancer vaccines have activated T-cells and dendritic cells, but none as precisely as this approach. “This is a second generation dendritic cell vaccine,” says Lauer. “We’re personalizing it and activating it against the patient’s own tumor. And the purpose of the clinical trial is to answer the question: how good is it? Does our current understanding of the technology help patients to get better?”
The UNM Cancer Center is one of 132 clinical trial sites worldwide, including sites in seven other countries. The trial will enroll about 900 people and will compare the standard kidney cancer treatment with the standard treatment plus the personalized vaccine. “This is a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art treatment,” says Lauer. “We [the UNM Cancer Center] are excited to be a partner in this trial.”
Richard Lauer, MD, FACP, is a Professor in the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine at the UNM School of Medicine. He serves as Chief Medical Officer at the UNM Cancer Center and is the Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Professor in Cancer Care Delivery. Trained at New York Medical College and Indiana University, Dr. Lauer is an international expert in the treatment of genitourinary cancers and the delivery of high quality, integrated cancer care in academic settings, blending comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment with clinical research. He has served as principal investigator for several clinical trials, many for treatment of kidney cancers and some that he created and developed. As Chief Medical Officer of the UNM Cancer Center, Dr. Lauer is responsible for all clinical aspects of the UNM Cancer Center’s operations. Dr. Lauer has published several papers on kidney cancer and serves on the National Cancer Institute’s National Clinical Trials Network Renal Task Force.
The clinical trial, entitled Phase 3 Trial of Autologous Dendritic Cell Immunotherapy (AGS-003) Plus Standard Treatment of Advanced Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC) (ADAPT), is currently recruiting patients. Learn more about the clinical trial at https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/study/NCT01582672.
Argos Therapeutics, Inc. is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of fully personalized immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. The company has developed a pipeline of products based on its proprietary Arcelis technology platform. Learn more at http://www.argostherapeutics.com/
The UNM Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in the state. One of just 68 premier NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide, the UNM Cancer Center is recognized for its scientific excellence; contributions to cancer research; delivery of high quality, state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment to all New Mexicans; and its community outreach programs statewide. Annual federal and private funding of more than $72 million supports the UNM Cancer Center’s research programs. The UNM Cancer Center treats more than 60 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer, from every county in the state. It is home to New Mexico’s largest team of board-certified oncology physicians and research scientists, representing every cancer specialty and hailing from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic. Through its partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, the UNM Cancer Center brings world-class cancer care to the southern part of the state; its collaborative clinical programs in Santa Fe and Farmington serve northern New Mexico and it is developing new collaborative programs in Alamogordo and in Roswell/Carlsbad. The UNM Cancer Center also supports several community outreach programs to make cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment available to every New Mexican. Learn more at www.cancer.unm.edu.