Specific immunotherapy of MUC1-positive adenocarcinomas with a recombinant vaccinia virus expressing MUC1 and IL-2
© BioMed Central Ltd 2001
Received: 10 May 2001
Published: 31 May 2001
Current therapies for most types of cancer focus on either surgical or radiotherapeutic eradication of the primary tumor as the best opportunity for cure. Therapy of disseminated disease has focused on chemotherapy, but, with the exception of certain rarer types of tumors, few patients are cured by chemotherapy, and even improvements in survival have been difficult to demonstrate. TRANSGENE's current approaches to oncology focus on the stimulation of the body's own immune system to induce rejection of tumors. One of these approaches is antigen-specific therapy. The first product candidate for antigen-specific therapy expresses the tumor-associated MUC1 antigen, stimulating a cellular immune response that may be useful in treating breast cancer and various epithelial cancers, such as lung, pancreatic and ovarian cancers. The product developed is a recombinant vaccinia virus containing sequences that code for human MUC-1 antigen and interleukin-2. A phase I trial in nine women with breast cancer was performed, in which the potential product was well tolerated without serious side effects, and MUC1-specific immune responses were observed. PhaseII trials in breast and in prostate cancer began during the second quarter of 1998. A phaseI trial in lung cancer patients is also in progress. During the same period, a second-generation product was developed. The new construct has been put into a highly attenuated vaccinia virus (modified virus Ankara), the safety of which was tested in a clinical trial in MUC1-positive cancer patients. Based on these results, phase II studies are in preparation to assess the clinical efficacy of this product in different populations of patients whose tumors express the MUC-1 tumor antigen.