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Fighting Prostate Cancer with Immunotherapy

June 25, 2014
Advaxis and UC San Francisco join forces to develop and test a range of novel constructs

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, around 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed and 30,000 men die from the disease each year. Cancer immunotherapy offers one promising approach to combating the disease. The University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) and biotechnology company Advaxis are partnering to evaluate a number of promising immunotherapy constructs.

The first therapy under consideration is ADXS-PSA, which incorporates prostate specific antigen (PSA) into a live, attenuated vector. The ADXS platform delivers antigen fused to the powerful immunostimulant LLO (listeriolysin O), directly inside antigen presenting cells that are capable of driving a cellular immune response to PSA-expressing cells. The approach also inhibits the regulatory T cells (Treg) and MDSCs (myeloid-derived suppressor cells) that contribute to immunologic tolerance of prostate cancer. “We plan to advance ADXS-PSA to Phase 1 clinical trials in the first half of 2014,” said Dr Robert Petit, Chief Scientific Officer of Advaxis.

Lawrence Fong, Professor in the Department of Medicine and principal investigator of the studies at UCSF, is working with Advaxis to assess ADXS-PSA along with several new immunotherapy constructs. “This is an exciting opportunity to work with novel immunotherapies and enhance our understanding of the interaction between the immune system and prostate cancer,” Fong said. His laboratory is dedicated to understanding the interaction between the immune system and cancer, and he and his colleagues have identified several tumor targets associated with clinical responses in immunotherapy studies for prostate cancer. The project combines the Advaxis immunotherapy platform, which generates both tumor fighting T cells and reduces tumor protection inside the tumor microenvironment, with targets that have already been shown to be important in effective immunotherapies for prostate cancer.

The constructs may also have activity against other cancers, which could be explored as the prostate cancer program develops further.