• Press Release

Mount Sinai Researchers Develop Treatment That Turns Tumors Into Cancer Vaccine Factories

  • New York, NY
  • (April 08, 2019)

Researchers at Mount Sinai have developed a novel approach to cancer immunotherapy, injecting immune stimulants directly into a tumor to teach the immune system to destroy it and other tumor cells throughout the body. 

The “in situ vaccination” worked so well in patients with advanced-stage lymphoma that it is also undergoing trials in breast and head and neck cancer patients, according to a study published in Nature Medicine in April.

The treatment consists of administering a series of immune stimulants directly into one tumor site.  The first stimulant recruits important immune cells called dendritic cells that act like generals of the immune army. The second stimulant activatesthe dendritic cells, which then instruct T cells, the immune system’s soldiers, to kill cancer cells and spare non-cancer cells. This immune army learns to recognize features of the tumor cells so it can seek them out and destroy them throughout the body, essentially turning the tumor into a cancer vaccine factory.

“The in situ vaccine approach has broad implications for multiple types of cancer,” said lead author Joshua Brody, MD, Director of the Lymphoma Immunotherapy Program at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “This method could also increase the success of other immunotherapies such as checkpoint blockade.”

After testing the lymphoma vaccine in the lab, it was tested in 11 patients in a clinical trial. Some patients had full remission from months to years. In lab tests in mice, the vaccine drastically increased the success of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy, the type of immunotherapy responsible for the complete remission of former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer and the focus of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

A clinical trial for lymphoma, breast, and head and neck cancer patients opened in March to test the vaccine with checkpoint blockade drugs. Because the combinedimmune therapy was at least three times more powerful than either checkpoint blockade or the vaccine by themselves, researchers are extremely optimistic about how effective this may be in patients in this new trial.  The in situ vaccine is also being tested in the lab in liver and ovarian cancer.

Linda Hammerich, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at The Tisch Cancer Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, was the first author on the study and integral to this research.

This research was funded by The Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the Cancer Research Institute, and Merck. Celldex and Oncovir provided reagents for the clinical trial and the lab work.


About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest integrated delivery system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai's vision is to produce the safest care, the highest quality, the highest satisfaction, the best access and the best value of any health system in the nation. The Health System includes approximately 7,480 primary and specialty care physicians; 11 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 410 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. The Icahn School of Medicine is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report's "Best Medical Schools", aligned with a U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" Hospital, No. 12 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding, and among the top 10 most innovative research institutions as ranked by the journal Nature in its Nature Innovation Index. This reflects a special level of excellence in education, clinical practice, and research. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of top U.S. hospitals; it is one of the nation's top 20 hospitals in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Orthopedics in the 2019-2020 "Best Hospitals" issue. Mount Sinai's Kravis Children's Hospital also is ranked nationally in five out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 12th nationally for Ophthalmology and the South Nassau Communities Hospital is ranked 35th nationally for Urology. Mount Sinai Beth Israel, Mount Sinai St. Luke's, Mount Sinai West, and South Nassau Communities Hospital are ranked regionally.

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