Pharma and biotech unite to fight killer brain cancer

glioblastoma web A new consortium of 14 biopharma and biotech companies has formed to develop personalised vaccines for brain cancers that currently have zero survival rates.

Supported by a €6m EU grant, the Glioma Actively Personalized VAccine Consortium (GAPVAC) aims to develop biomarker-guided therapies for patients with glioblastomas.

A multinational clinical trial of the consortium’s actively personalised vaccines (APVACs) is planned to start in 2014.

GAPVAC is led by two German companies: cancer vaccine development specialist inimmatics biotechnologies and genetic technology firm BioNTech.

Glioblastoma is the most common and malignant form of brain cancer. Current treatments for it have almost no impact.

The new APVACs will be designed for each patient based on individual genetic aspects of their tumour and immune system, utilising cutting-edge technologies such as next-generation sequencing and high-sensitivity mass spectrometry.

The project aims to prove that personalised cancer vaccines can induce a strong and specific immune response and are a realistic clinical option.

The planned phase 1 clinical trial will enrol up to 30 newly diagnosed patients, who will be given a personalised vaccine in addition to standard treatments.

Ten academic partners, including Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and the University of Southampton, will apply the APVACs to their own patients.

The clinical trial will be accompanied by an extensive programme, led by the Association of Cancer Immunotherapy, to identify biomarkers that predict which patients are most likely to benefit from APVAC treatment.

Dr Harpreet Singh, Chief Scientific Officer of immatics and co-ordinator of the new consortium, said: “GAPVAC represents an exciting step forward as the first project exploring actively personalised therapeutic cancer vaccines at a European level. This novel approach could create a completely new way to treat cancer.

Such an approach, he added, “is only possible by combining a variety of the latest technological innovations and by joining forces with superb biotechnology companies and academic institutions – by partners who share a dedication for the personalisation of therapy for the benefit of cancer patients.”