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National cancer network underpins prostate vaccine trial

Published on 11/12/06 at 04:21pm

The UK's National Cancer Research Network has given its backing to a phase IIb trial of a promising vaccine for the treatment of prostate cancer.

Biotech company Onyvax has begun its trial with Onyvax-P, designed to stimulate the immune system to fight prostate cancer, with the involvement of UK clinical centres and adoption by the cancer network (NCRN).

The trial is the first industry-sponsored protocol to be adopted by the NCRN since the launch of the NHS research strategy Best Research for Best Health in January 2006, aimed at expanding collaborative medical research with the pharma industry.

Established by the Department of Health in 2001, the NCRN's main task is to fast-track patient recruitment into clinical trials and improve the integration of research into clinical practice.

There are currently 33 cancer research networks across England. NCRN funding is allocated to each network to appoint research staff who access pharmacy, pathology radiology and other areas of support, such as information systems and training.

Around 30,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK each year, and the trial is evaluating a total of 75 patients across Europe with non-metastatic, hormone-resistant prostate cancer, with 50 patients receiving active therapy and 25 patients receiving placebo.

It follows the start of a similar trial in the Baltic States, where patients are already being treated with the vaccine.

Patients will receive 15 doses of vaccine over 12 months, with the aim of maintaining a strong anti-cancer immune response over the treatment period.  Onyvax, based in London, expects to receive prostate-specific antigen (PSA) velocity information and progression-free survival data six and 12 months after each patient is enrolled.

Prof Hardev Pandha, chief trial investigator and based at Surrey University's postgraduate medical school, said: "Patients at this stage of disease are asymptomatic and a rising level of PSA - the blood marker for prostate cancer - is the only sign the disease is progressing."

He added: "The aim of this vaccine treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease, delay the onset of metastases, cancer-related pain and the use of chemotherapies, while at the same time, maintaining a high overall quality of life. This would be considered a major clinical advance."

Surrey University's postgraduate medical school, working with the St Luke's Cancer Centre, Guildford, will be the first trial site to open, with others coming on stream in the next few months.

Onyvax, founded in 1998, is also developing Onyvax-105, an antibody-based therapy that has shown promising results in early clinical trials in colorectal cancer and osteosarcoma. The company is intending to develop the antibody further, initially in prostate cancer.


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