On October 14, the SELLAS Life Sciences Group, a biotech company leading a Phase 2 study of the WT1 vaccine, released the study’s promising data. The Meso Foundation had funded part of the Phase 1 portion of this study, the results of which prompted the Department of Defense to also award it a large grant.
The company reported that survival of patients receiving the vaccine rose to a median of 39 months compared with a median of 18 months survival of patients in the control arm. Patients receiving the vaccine also saw a doubling in progression-free survival from 5.5 months to 11.5 months.
Dr. Marjorie Zauderer, MD, MS, FACP, the principal investigator of the mesothelioma study, is an attending physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a member of the Science Advisory Board of the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation.
“These findings are provocative and certainly support further investigation of the WT1 vaccine. We are hopeful that we will be able to confirm this preliminary result in a phase III clinical trial,” said Dr. Zauderer.
The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation funded part of the Phase 1 portion of this study, the results of which prompted the Department of Defense to also award it a large grant.
WT1, short for Wilms’ tumor 1, is a protein highly expressed in mesothelioma cells (as well as many other cancers), but absent in normal cells. This characteristic makes it a great target for immunotherapy. While normally the immune system largely ignores the WT1 proteins, the purpose of the WT1 vaccine is to instead teach the immune system to attack it, thus killing the cancer cells.