• 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 academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

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