Herpes Vaccine Entering Phase 3 Testing For Advanced Melanoma
How did a vaccine developed to combat the herpes virus end up in Phase 3 trials treating Stage III and Stage IV melanoma cancers? First, someone originally testing the drug OncoVEX on herpes cells accidentally placed the vaccine in the wrong dish - a petri dish full of melanoma tumor cells....
Then, after discovering that many of the tumor cells had perished in the petri dish, OncoVEX was optimized and further studied as a treatment for melanomas, the most difficult and most lethal form of skin cancer.
OncoVEX, owned by BioVex, is being tested by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Its Phase 2 trial of OncoVEX had very encouraging results. Though persons with Stage III and Stage IV melanoma generally have very poor prognoses and die within six months to two years after the cancer becomes metastasized, the patients in Phase 2 testing of the drug fared significantly better.
Of the 50 patients involved, 8 patients completely recovered and 4 recovered after surgery and treatment with the OncoVEX vaccine. Overall survival rate was 58 percent after one year and 52 percent after two years. (Complete results are reported in the December 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Oncology.)
"What really surprised and encouraged us was that the vaccine worked not just on the cells we injected, but on lesions in other parts of the body that we couldn't reach, said Howard Kaufman, associate dean of Rush Medical College and lead researcher for the upcoming Phase 3 study. "In other words, the vaccine prompted an immune response that was circulated through the bloodstream to distant sites."
"These are the best results to date for any vaccine developed for melanoma, Kaufman said, "but they need to be confirmed in a larger population."
The new population will be 430 melanoma patients at centers across the U.S. As in the Phase 2 study, patients will be injected with OncoVEX every two weeks for up to 24 treatments and will be tracked for two years after the first dose.
If you or someone you know is interested in participating in this study, visit OncoVEX Phase 3.