MADISON, Wis. & WASHINGTON--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Douglas McNeel, MD, PhD, will address the World Vaccine Congress on strategies to apply the promising field of immunologic therapy to prostate cancer. Dr. McNeel is a genitourinary medical oncologist with a laboratory and clinical research program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that has focused on prostate cancer immunology for nearly two decades. He is also the Chief Scientific Founder and Medical Officer for Madison Vaccines Incorporated, formed to test and deliver gene-based immunotherapies with the potential to treat the full continuum of prostate cancer from pre-metastatic to late-stage disease. The Conference takes place April 10 – 13 in Washington DC, and Dr McNeel speaks at 12:40pm on April 11th. (http://www.terrapinn.com/conference/world-vaccine-congress-washington/speaker-douglas-MCNEEL.stm#sthash.PbiJAhmD.2dPu6Wwx.dpuf)
MVI-118 and MVI-816, the product candidates developed in Dr. McNeel’s laboratory now in clinical studies, are gene-based immunotherapies. Although commonly referred to as ‘vaccines,’ they do not use protein antigens , like giving a scent to a bloodhound, to prevent or treat the cancer. Rather, they use plasmid DNA (genetically engineered material encoding a human antigen) to induce the immune system to attack cancer cells. Both of these immune-activating agents are being tested in combination therapies in later stage disease. Dr. McNeel will report on early signs of the combo therapies’ effects on the immune system and their positive impact against advanced prostate cancer.
MVI-816 induces immune responses to cells expressing prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP), an antigen specific to prostate cells. It is in a phase 2 clinical trial as monotherapy in men before the cancer has metastasized or spread, but it is also being explored in a clinical trial with a checkpoint inhibitor (pembrolizumab), in men with metastatic, castrate-resistant prostate cancer. Checkpoint or PD1 inhibitors make activated immune cells better able to kill cancer cells. They work well as monotherapy in many cancers, but not very well by themselves in prostate cancer.
Dr. McNeel explains, “Prostate tumors do not elicit a large immune response, so there may not be many immune cells to activate by checkpoint inhibitors alone. That’s where MVI-816 comes in. It activates and increases the number of immune system cells. They recognize cancer cells expressing the PAP antigen, and the PD-1 inhibitor makes these immune system cells more able to kill the cancer cells.”
Dr. McNeel was awarded a prestigious grant from the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Movember Foundation to conduct this research.
The other immune-activating agent, MVI-118, uses plasmid DNA to target the human androgen receptor that drives the progression of prostate cancer and, in many cases, is responsible for the resistance to current treatments. Similarly, MVI-118 may be tested with a checkpoint inhibitor, but is already being tested in combination with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). The ADT dries up the supply of male hormone that drives the cancer, while MVI-118 kills cells that have a receptor to utilize any androgen that might be left.
Plasmid DNA immunotherapy can be rapidly manufactured, is more stable in storage relative to many forms of vaccines, and represents off-the-shelf therapies that do not have to be individually engineered for each individual patient. They are easily administered with simple intradermal injections under the skin.