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The Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York has announced it is starting Phase I trials for a cancer vaccine made with dendritic cells. The vaccine, says NBC's Joelle Parks, is tailor-made for each patient. Cancer cells are extracted from the patient and coated with a particular variety of the cancer cell antigen NY-ESO-1, called antiDEC205-NY-ESO-1. The researchers then add the drug rapamycin to the mix, and inject the reformulated cells back into the patient, Parks says.

The vaccine, says RPCI on its website, is meant to eradicate cancer cells, and prevent all recurrence of the disease. "Armed with this specialized [antiDEC205-NY-ESO-1] protein, the treated cells are then given back to the patient as a vaccine designed to recruit an army of killer immune cells that seek out and destroy cancer," says RPCI's Kunle Odunsi, the study's lead investigator.

What makes this dendritic cancer vaccine different from others of its kind is the addition of rapamycin, a drug used to prevent rejection after organ transplants. A recent study by RPCI researchers found that low doses of rapamycin prevents the immune system from using up all of its cancer-killing T-cells at once, the institute adds. So the addition of the drug to a cancer vaccine could help train the immune system to remember cancer cells for a long time, and to continue killing them past the initial burst of T-cells. "The ability to stretch out the attack for a long-term, durable response suggests that the vaccine may be effective in preventing disease recurrence," RPCI adds. "The new NY-ESO-1 dendritic cell vaccine is expected to show great promise in patients with bladder, brain, breast, esophageal, gastrointestinal, hepatocellular, kidney, lung, melanoma, ovarian, prostate, sarcoma and uterine tumors."

The Phase I trial will enroll 18 to 29 patients whose tumors express NY-ESO-1.

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