Hildebrand Leads Team in Developing a Personalized Cancer Vaccine

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OU researchers are developing a personalized melanoma vaccine that can be tailored to a patient's specific cancer mutation to better eliminate tumors.

Personalized cancer vaccines of this sort may become a reality within only five years, said team leader William H. Hildebrand. 

Hildebrand’s team includes doctorates from Switzerland and Iran, a postdoctoral student at Hildebrand's lab and Andrea Patterson, a Health Sciences Center doctoral candidate.

Patterson, whose dissertation project is on the use of immunotherapies to treat ovarian cancer, discussed the importance of personalization in the quest for cancer treatment. 

“Everyone’s cancer is different because you have your own different set of mutations in your cancer," Patterson said. "You have your own different immune system which is going to shape what your cancer turns into so I think the personalized approach is going to be really really pivotal.”

“For a number of years people have realized that everybody’s cancer is quite distinct," Hildebrand said.

Fifteen years ago, Hildebrand started Pure Proteins, a company partially owned by OU to help develop cancer therapies. Two years ago, Pure Proteins partnered with Washington University at St. Louis, which was conducting research about targeting cancer through the body's immune response.

The two teams complemented each other, Hildebrand said. Researchers from Washington University would find cancer mutations while Hildebrand’s team would target the mutations' immune responses.

“We came to the same point independently to where we could combine our efforts to develop personalized cancer vaccines for melanoma," Hildebrand said.

Each of the study's three participants has had a customized cancer vaccine made and each subject's tumors regressed after treatment, Hildebrand said. In the future the same techniques can be used to develop treatments for other cancers besides melanoma.

“In the future the goal is to be completely therapeutic to get rid of the cancer,” said Hildebrand.

Rick Walters, who has been treated for thyroid cancer and a sarcoma, said he was interested in the idea of cancer being treated with a vaccine like a virus or bacterial infection. Walters’ cancer was treated traditionally through radiation and the surgical removal of the affected area.

“If [my cancer] would have been something that could have been tested earlier and taken care of with a vaccine or a pill that would have saved not only close to a million dollars but my family a significant amount of heartache and disruption," Walters said. 

Source: oudaily.com