Therion Biologics Corp. said Monday that it started a Phase I/II trial ofa therapeutic vaccine for melanoma and breast cancer.The vaccine, MAGEVAC, is being developed by the Cambridge,Mass., company in collaboration with Steven Rosenberg and others atthe National Cancer Institute, which is sponsoring the trial. The vaccineuses a recombinant live poxvirus engineered to carry the human genefor a tumor-specific peptide called MAGE-1.The trial is expected to enroll 36 patients whose tumors express theMAGE-1 peptide. Patients will receive one vaccination per month forthree months."MAGE-1 is an antigen found on melanoma tumors," Dennis Panicali,Therion's president and CEO, told BioWorld. "It is also the target ofcytotoxic T cells found in certain patients with melanoma. So webelieve there are naturally occurring cytotoxic T cells to the particulartumor antigen, and we're encouraged we should be able to induce thosecytotoxic T cells in patients with melanoma."Panicali said the trial will assess the safety of the vaccine and thepotential of the recombinant viral vector approach to stimulate animmune response against cells that produce MAGE-1. He said theactual tumors in these patients also will be monitored to see if there isany objective response.Therion has another cancer vaccine candidate, TBC-CEA, already inPhase I trials in patients with advanced gastrointestinal, breast or lungcancer, and five other cancer vaccines in preclinical testing. Thecompany also has an AIDS vaccine in Phase I trials. The vaccine,TBC-3B, is a recombinant pox viral vector that expresses multiple HIVproteins. _ Jim Shrine
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