An investigational vaccine utilizing an individual’s own immune system to help fight cancer is now being studied in clinical research trials. The L523S vaccine is a therapeutic approach being evaluated to try to reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence and ultimately improve survival in individuals with stages IB and II non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths ever year, with over 170,000 diagnoses annually in the United States alone. Approximately 80% of lung cancers are classified as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which refers to the type of cell within the lung that the cancer originated. Individuals diagnosed with stage I NSCLC have cancer that has not spread from its site of origin. Individuals with stage II NSCLC have cancer that has only spread to nearby lymph nodes. Standard treatment for stages I and II NSCLC includes the surgical removal of cancer. Unfortunately, undetectable cancer cells often remain in the body following surgery and are responsible for cancer recurrences and cancer spread. Results from clinical trials have demonstrated that the addition of chemotherapy and/or radiation following surgery in early-stage NSCLC modestly reduces the risk of a cancer recurrence; however, the risk for recurrence or death from cancer remains high in this group of individuals. Researchers have been evaluating different approaches to kill remaining cancer cells in the body in order to try to reduce this risk and ultimately improve cure rates for stages I and II NSCLC.

One type of approach that is being evaluated by scientists from Corixa Corporation in Seattle is referred to as biologic or immune therapy. This investigational treatment approach is based on stimulating the individual’s own immune system to help fight cancer. Normally, when immune cells encounter antigens (protein fragments with or without carbohydrate) displayed on cells that are not those of healthy cells within the body, an immune attack is mounted against the cell displaying the “foreign” antigen. Cancer cells normally display antigens that are different from those of normal cells; however, the cancer cells within a tumor are able to evade an immune attack. The concept behind immune therapy in cancer is to stimulate the immune system to recognize the antigens of cancer cells as foreign, so that the immune system will recognize and kill remaining cancer cells in the body.

The L523S vaccine is derived from the L523S protein, which is found inside approximately 90% of NSCLC cells. Fragments of this protein are also displayed on the outside of cancer cells. Previous research studies have indicated that L523S may be a potent target to be used in immune therapy for NSCLC. The L523S vaccine is unique in that it is comprised of two separate components used to stimulate the immune system against NSCLC cells displaying antigens of L523S. The first component of the vaccine includes fragments of L523S that have been inserted into a DNA sequence (recombinant plasmid DNA). The second component involves the L523S antigen inserted into an adenovirus (type of virus that causes the common cold). One component of the L523S vaccine is administered with a system that does not use needles. The administration system, Biojector® 2000, utilizes carbon dioxide that is released at a very high pressure from a cartridge to deliver liquid medication into muscle. The high pressure, releasing the medication at approximately 500 miles per hour, creates a tiny opening into the skin, and delivers the medication into a larger area of muscle than a vaccine utilizing a needle.

Clinical research studies are currently evaluating the experimental L523S vaccine following surgery with or without standard chemotherapy in individuals with stage I and II NSCLC. The experimental L523S vaccine will be used in an attempt to reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence following treatment Individuals interested in learning more or participating in a clinical trial evaluating the L523S vaccine in stage I or II NSCLC should contact, or call Jenny Maxon at (208)727-6880.

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