By using vaccines in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, a successful attack on the tumor may be possible.— Elizabeth Jaffee, MD
Elizabeth Jaffee, MD, Deputy Director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, commented on the promise of neoantigens during a press briefing at the 2nd International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference.
“In addition to the development of new drugs targeting multiple immune system signals, another area of emerging research focuses on the evolving set of proteins in cancer cells that change as a result of the cell mutating, becoming cancerous, and then metastasizing. These proteins are neoantigens,” she said.
“Scientists are just beginning to develop vaccines that target these shifting proteins in an effort to make cancer cells more recognizable by the immune system. We have heard about that at this conference,” she said.
Dr. Jaffee alluded to her own work in pancreatic cancer, a tumor type that typically lacks a strong immune response. “But with vaccines, we are able to bring in lymphoid aggregates that are composed of T cells that are able to recognize cancer along with other cells that help educate the T cells, such as dendritic cells, also known as antigen-presenting cells,” she said.
The hope is that vaccines will help stimulate a T-cell response and overcome adaptive resistance to treatment. She agreed with Patrick A. Ott, MD, PhD, Clinical Director of the Melanoma Center and the Center for Immuno-Oncology, that by using vaccines in combination with checkpoint inhibitors, a successful attack on the tumor may be possible. ■
Disclosure: Dr. Jaffee has received grant support from Aduro Biotech, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Roche; she has the potential to receive royalities from a licensing agreement between Johns Hopkins and Aduro Biotech for GVAX and Listeria vaccine and is also a consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Adaptive Biotech, Medimmune, and Incyte.