October 27, 2021 • 2 Min

A Vaccine To Boost Immune Response to Pancreatic Cancer

vaccine vial and syringe

Asian Development Bank; Flickr

Could vaccines be used to help heighten the immune response to pancreatic cancer after surgical removal of the tumor?

Therapeutic vaccines are being tested in many tough-to-treat cancers as a variation of immunotherapy. These vaccines are designed to train a person’s immune system to recognize and target malignant tumors, and possibly prevent a recurrence of the disease after treatment. In this phase I clinical trial, researchers are testing the safety of a vaccine; they are also looking at whether it creates an immune response.

A Vaccine to Attack the Tumor

The vaccine being tested in this study contains neoantigens linked to pancreatic cancer, as well as personalized mesothelin epitopes. Neoantigens are new proteins created by tumor cells as they mutate and grow and are located on the surface of tumor cells. Mesothelin is an antigen that is highly expressed in solid tumors, and an epitope is the part of an antigen that is recognized by antibodies and immune cells.

Together, these components are designed to expose various immune system components including cytotoxic T cells to the tumor-specific neoantigens. The goal is to activate and train the T cells to find and infiltrate cancerous pancreatic cells, turning “cold” tumors—ones that do not provoke an immune response—into “hot” tumors, which do get a response from the immune system. Researchers hypothesize that this training will enable the immune system to fight future recurrences.

Joining this Trial

To qualify for this trial, patients must have undergone surgery followed by chemotherapy. Participants will receive the vaccine, co-administered with an immunostimulant, five times in the first month, with two additional vaccinations within the following two months. Doctors will monitor the patients’ reactions to the vaccine for any adverse side effects. Blood samples will also be collected regularly to analyze the patients’ immune responses.

We encourage you to consult your physicians for clinical trials that may be right for you. The website provides more details about this trial as well as many others. You can visit the EmergingMed Trial Finder for a list of all active pancreatic cancer clinical trials.