Therapeutic EBV cancer vaccine in phase II trials in Asia
Dr Graham Taylor, Senior Research Fellow in Tumour Immunology at the University of Birmingham, along with colleagues in the UK and in Asia, has successfully started a Phase II trial for a therapeutic cancer vaccine targeted at Epstein Barr Virus (EBV)-associated malignancies.
The trial, using a genetically engineered MVA-based vaccine, will take place in Hong Kong and will treat patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, an epithelial malignancy that is common throughout South East Asia.
The design of the vaccine capitalises on years of work studying the immune response to EBV, a common virus that is linked to several malignancies including Hodgkins lymphoma and a proportion of gastric cancers.
Dr Taylor explained: “The Epstein-Barr virus-associated cancers always contain viral proteins. Because they are present only in the tumour cells, these viral proteins represent ideal targets for immune therapy. Our vaccine is designed to be given to patients to stimulate their immune systems to attack these viral proteins.”
The vaccine programme, which involves a key collaboration with clinicians in Hong Kong, as well as a host of other local and national collaborations, has already successfully completed safety testing in two phase I clinical trials, where vaccination was shown to increase immune responses to the EBV proteins present in tumour cells.
Dr Taylor was optimistic about the potential efficacy of the vaccine: “The earlier trials have shown that our vaccine is well-tolerated by patients and can increase the size of relevant anti-EBV immune responses. In the new phase 2 trial the vaccine will be given to patients who have received chemoradiotherapy but who still have some cancer remaining to see if these immune responses are able to kill cancer cells.
Phase I trial of recombinant modified vaccinia ankara encoding Epstein-Barr viral tumor antigens in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients. Cancer Res. 2013 Mar 15;73(6):1676-88. Hui EP, Taylor GS, Jia H, Ma BB, Chan SL, Ho R, Wong WL, Wilson S, Johnson BF, Edwards C, Stocken DD, Rickinson AB, Steven NM, Chan AT.