NEW YORK — An experimental immunotherapy may someday become the newest weapon against lung cancer. Physician-scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University Medical Center are enrolling patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital as part of an ongoing Phase III trial.
The experimental immunotherapy is intended to prevent cancer recurrence in patients who have already undergone surgical removal of the tumor. The therapy works by exposing the body to a protein called melanoma-associated antigen-A3 (MAGE-A3), normally produced by lung cancer cells.
“By exposing the body to the antigen, the immune system is primed to attack the cancer,” says Dr. Nasser Altorki, principal investigator for the study at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, where he is a thoracic surgeon. He is also director of the Division of Thoracic Surgery and professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.
The MAGE-A3 protein is classified as an Antigen-Specific Cancer Immunotherapeutic (ASCI). ASCIs are meant to trigger a specific response, telling antibodies and T-cells of the immune system to recognize and attack the cancer cells in a highly specific manner.
“We are hopeful that if this investigational therapy continues to show encouraging results in clinical trials that it may become a new weapon against non-small cell lung cancer,” explains Dr. Joshua R. Sonett, the study’s principal investigator at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, where he is also chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director of the lung transplant program. He is also professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Because the vaccine augments the patient’s own immune system, it may be less toxic to normal cells and can be used even when standard chemotherapy is needed. It is a win-win situation.”
The most commonly reported side effects are mild local pain, redness, swelling near the site of injection, fever, fatigue and muscle pain.
Patients enrolled in the study are randomly assigned to receive either the vaccine or a placebo. The vaccine is administered through an injection in the arm every three weeks for five injections, then every three months for eight injections.
Patients who have recently undergone surgery to remove their tumor and who have had chemotherapy after surgery are eligible for this trial, called the MAGRIT clinical research study. Participants in the study must also have tumors that test positive for MAGE-A3 to be eligible. Approximately 30 percent of patients test positive for the MAGE-A3 protein. For more information about how to enroll, individuals may call NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia at (212) 305-9323 or NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell at (212) 746-3328.
More than 400 centers in 33 countries are taking part in the study, which is funded by GlaxoSmithKline.
Lung cancer kills more than 1 million people each year worldwide. On average, only 15 percent of patients survive five years or more. NSCLC accounts for more than 80 percent of lung cancer cases.
NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is the nation’s largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,353 beds. The Hospital has nearly 2 million inpatient and outpatient visits in a year, including more than 220,000 visits to its emergency departments — more than any other area hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the most comprehensive health care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education and community service. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation’s leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. For more information, visit www.nyp.org.
Columbia University Medical Center
Columbia University Medical Center provides international leadership in basic, pre-clinical and clinical research, in medical and health sciences education, and in patient care. The medical center trains future leaders and includes the dedicated work of many physicians, scientists, public health professionals, dentists, and nurses at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Mailman School of Public Health, the College of Dental Medicine, the School of Nursing, the biomedical departments of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and allied research centers and institutions. Established in 1767, Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons was the first institution in the country to grant the M.D. degree and is now among the most selective medical schools in the country. Columbia University Medical Center is home to the most comprehensive medical research enterprise in New York City and State and one of the largest in the United States. Columbia University Medical Center is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the nation’s largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital provider. For more information, please visit www.cumc.columbia.edu.
Weill Cornell Medical College
Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University’s medical school located in New York City, is committed to excellence in research, teaching, patient care and the advancement of the art and science of medicine, locally, nationally and globally. Physicians and scientists of Weill Cornell Medical College are engaged in cutting-edge research from bench to bedside, aimed at unlocking mysteries of the human body in health and sickness and toward developing new treatments and prevention strategies. In its commitment to global health and education, Weill Cornell has a strong presence in places such as Qatar, Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey. Through the historic Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Medical College is the first in the U.S. to offer its M.D. degree overseas. Weill Cornell is the birthplace of many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer, the synthesis of penicillin, the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S., the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Parkinson’s disease, and most recently, the world’s first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. Weill Cornell Medical College is affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where its faculty provides comprehensive patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. The Medical College is also affiliated with the Methodist Hospital in Houston, making Weill Cornell one of only two medical colleges in the country affiliated with two U.S.News & World Report Honor Roll hospitals. For more information, visit www.med.cornell.edu.