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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
- About Us
Melanoma Cancer Vaccine Fails
6 September 2013 2:00 pm
In a cancer vaccine setback, the drug giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced yesterday that an immunotherapy it had been testing in a phase III trial had flopped. The company is holding out hope, however, that some patients with a certain genetic signature will still be helped, and the trial is continuing.
The treatment “did not significantly extend disease-free survival … when compared to placebo” in volunteers with melanoma, the London-based company stated bluntly in its press release. Called MAGE-A3, the vaccine targets proteins by the same name that are expressed on tumor cells in a subset of patients. It’s supposed to stimulate the immune system to destroy those cells.
The likely problem with MAGE-A3 is one that a myriad of other cancer vaccines have not been able to overcome, says Steven Rosenberg, an immunotherapist and chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland: It couldn’t prevent immune reactions that dampen the vaccine’s ability to mount a successful attack on tumors. “I thought there was a very tiny chance that this MAGE vaccine would have any impact,” Rosenberg says, “because no vaccine like it has been effective.”
GSK’s scientists—along with others—have been trying hard to predict exactly who might respond to immune therapies like MAGE-A3 and other cancer treatments generally. In July, the company’s researchers and some academic collaborators published a paper in the Journal of Clinical Oncology identifying an 84-gene “signature” that seemed to correlate with how well people with metastatic melanoma responded to the therapy. Now, says GSK spokesperson Melinda Stubbee, the company will test some variation of this signature I in the ongoing melanoma trial, which includes 1345 people. A data safety monitoring board is allowing the study to continue while that’s tested.
GSK also has a phase III lung cancer trial with MAGE-A3 and expects to report those results sometime next year. In a presentation to analysts and investors in late July, GSK’s chief executive officer, Andrew Witty, described MAGE-A3 as “high-risk but potentially high rewards.” He continued: “I’m not naïve, I’m completely open to the possibility that these programmes fail.”