A collaborative agreement between Cancer Research UK (UK) and Asterias Biotherapeutics Inc (CA, USA) has resulted in the first-of-its-kind vaccine moving into a Phase I clinical trial for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The vaccine, termed AST-VAC2 is derived from a standardised human embryonic stem cell line.
“This vaccine trial is a pioneering approach to improving treatment for lung cancer, the biggest cause of cancer death worldwide,” explained Nigel Blackburn, Cancer Research UK’s director of drug development.
The AST-VAC2 dendritic cells are engineered to express a modified form of telomerase, termed hTERT in order to stimulate a natural immune response targeted at cancer cells.
Previous dendritic cell therapies have been manufactured using the patients’ own cells, which is costly, slow and inefficient. In contrast, this pioneering approach involves growing mature dendritic cells from a single human embryonic stem cell line in the laboratory, therefore, it is hoped that AST-VAC2 will overcome these challenges.
The Phase I trial will investigate the feasibility of the manufacturing process at a clinical scale as well as testing whether it’s a safe and effective treatment for patients with NSCLC. To do this, researchers will test blood samples taken at various time points to assess whether the patient’s immune system is capable of mounting an immune response against hTERT.
Chief investigator for the trial, Christian Ottensmeier from the University of Southhampton (UK) concluded: “With its potential to be used off-the-shelf, AST-VAC2 is an exciting development in the rapidly evolving field of immunotherapy.”