The first patient in a personalized multiple myeloma vaccine clinical trial at the UW Carbone Cancer Center was treated this past week. This cell-based vaccine was created at UW Health’s in-house Clinical Hematopoietic Cell Processing Laboratory (CHCPL).
“This trial is taking personalized medicine to the next level, by making a vaccine from the patient’s own tumor cells,’’ says Dr. Natalie Callander, a bone marrow transplant physician who specializes in treating multiple myeloma. She is heading the UW Carbone Cancer Center part of the clinical trial, one of about 14 locations nationwide for the National Cancer Institute CTN-1401 trial.
“This is a great achievement for Dr. Callander and our Bone Marrow Transplant program to be able to deliver the first ever personalized cell based vaccine here at UW-Madison, as part of this important clinical trial,” said Dr. Peiman Hematti, a bone marrow transplant physician and director of CHCPL.
Multiple myeloma is a type of blood cancer that can be treated, but not cured. In the new trial, newly diagnosed patients will have tumor cells removed from their bone marrow and frozen. After that, they will go through the standard chemotherapy to kill the cancer, then will receive a self-donated bone marrow transplant to restore their immune system. But even with the best of current treatments, multiple myeloma eventually returns. This is where the new trial begins.
About two months after the bone marrow transplant, patients in the treatment arm will have their frozen tumor tissue fused with cells from their own recovering immune system to create a cellular vaccine that will identify and kill the myeloma cells. Because the vaccine is made by cells from the patient’s own body, researchers expect it will be especially safe and effectively lead to the production of new immune cells that will target and kill any cancer cells when they begin to grow again.
“We’re trying to train the patient’s immune system to be constantly surveying to identify and wipe out the re-emerging myeloma cells,” Dr. Callander says.
Another UW Carbone Cancer Center myeloma researcher, Dr. Fotis Asimakopoulos, will conduct a correlative study seeking to identify why the vaccine works for those patients on the trial for whom the cancer burden decreases. He will be examining bone marrow specimens from patients, looking at interactions between various cellular components that may improve immunity.
“Immunotherapy is big in cancer treatment right now, and some patients respond very well to these therapies,” Asimakopoulos said. “For the cellular vaccine platform, we need good biomarkers to tell us which patients are likely to mount an effective immunological response.”
Even patients assigned to the non-vaccine arm of the trial will have their tumor cells frozen, so that if ultimately the vaccine proves to be a success, they can have a personalized vaccine created after the trial concludes, Callander says.
Hematti especially wants to acknowledge the work of Joseph Burkholder and Kreg Grindle, senior medical laboratory specialists at CHCPL, who produced the cellular vaccine.
Newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients interested in the trial can contact Dr. Callander at (608) 265-8690 or [email protected].
University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority