SYDNEY - A cancer vaccine for treating breast and colorectal cancer developed in Australia has moved into Phase I/II trials in a clinic in Greece, following positive results from Phase I trials in Australia.

Ian McKenzie, director of the Austin Research Institute, part of the Austin and Repatriation Medical Centre, in Melbourne, said the vaccine was tested in several Phase I trials involving 80 patients over two years with no adverse effects. In addition, patients treated with the vaccine were found to have produced antibodies to their tumor cells, indicating the concept was viable.

McKenzie said the next stages in testing of the vaccine have moved to the Prolypsis clinic, in Athens, where most of the breast cancer cases in Greece are treated, in part because the doctors running the clinic asked to be allowed to help conduct the trials.

The trials have not yet started, but McKenzie said they are expected to involve about 60 patients. The vaccine is the result of work by two researchers at the Austin institute, Vasso Apostolopoulos and Geoffrey Pietersz, who combined mucin, a well-known molecular marker for tumor cells, with the sugar molecule, mannin. (See BioWorld International, Aug. 27, 1997, p. 3.)

This combined molecule, after some chemical treatment of the mannin, stimulated the immune system of mice sufficiently well to encourage human trials. To date the work has been funded by a research and development tax syndicate, and the Austin Research Institute is now looking for partners to commercialize the vaccine. *