Possibilities for Personalised Vaccines Revealed at ESMO Symposium

Systems biology approaches in the vaccine development – via Nature.com

The possibilities for personalised vaccines in all types of cancer are revealed today in a lecture from Dr Harpreet Singh at the ESMO Symposium on Immuno-Oncology 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.

“One of the biggest hurdles in cancer immunotherapy is the discovery of appropriate cancer targets that can be recognised by T-cells,” said Singh, who is scientific coordinator of the EU-funded GAPVAC phase I trial which is testing personalised vaccines in glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive brain cancer. “In the GAPVAC trial we will treat glioblastoma patients with vaccines that are ideal for each patient because they contain personalised antigens.”1

For all patients in the GAPVAC study, researchers will identify genes expressed in the tumour, peptides presented on the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) receptor (i.e. peptides which will be seen by T-cells), cancer specific mutations, and the ability of the immune system to mount a response to certain antigens. Based on this information, two vaccines, called actively personalised vaccines (APVACs), will be constructed and administered following conventional surgery.

The first vaccine will be prepared from a warehouse of 72 targets previously identified by the researchers as relevant for treatment in glioblastoma. These peptides have been manufactured and put on the shelf ready to be vaccinated in patients. Patients will be given a cocktail of the peptides they express and which their immune system can mount a response to.

Singh said: “A patient may express 20 of these 72 targets on their tumour, for example. If we find that the patient’s immune system can mount responses to 5 of the 20 targets, we mix the 5 peptides and give them to the patient. We mix the peptides off the shelf but the cocktail is changed for each patient because it is matched to their biomarkers.”

The second vaccine is synthesised de novo based on a mutated peptide expressed in the tumour of the patient. Singh said: “That peptide is not in our warehouse because it just occurs in this one single patient. The patient receives APVAC-1 and APVAC-2 in a highly personalised fashion in a way that I think has never been done for any patient.”

He added: “GAPVAC has two major goals. One is to show that personalised vaccines are feasible, since this is one of the most complicated trials ever done in cancer immunotherapy. The second is to show that we can mount far better biological responses in these patients compared to vaccination with non-personalised antigens.”

Singh’s previous research has shown that vaccination with non-personalised antigens leads to better disease control and longer overall survival in phase I and phase II clinical studies in patients with renal cell cancer.2
Singh said: “For the non-personalised vaccines we used off-the-shelf peptide targets that were shared by many patients with a particular cancer. Using this approach we have successfully vaccinated patients with renal cell cancer, colorectal cancer and glioblastoma.”

He added: “During this research we identified other targets that appeared in very few patients or even, in extreme cases, in a single patient. Often these rarer peptides are of better quality, meaning they are more specifically seen in cancer cells and occur at higher levels. This led us to start developing personalised cancer vaccines which contain the ideal set of targets for one particular patient. We hope they will be even more effective than the off-the-shelf vaccines.”

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“Ageing well” must be a global priority

Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects

Source: Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects

Worldwide, life expectancy of older people continues to rise. By 2020, for the first time in history, the number of people aged 60 years and older will outnumber children younger than 5 years.

By 2050, the world’s population aged 60 years and older is expected to total 2 billion, up from 841 million today.  80% of these older people will be living in low-income and middle-income countries [Paper 1].

The increase in longevity, especially in high-income countries (HICs), has been largely due to the decline in deaths from cardiovascular disease (stroke and ischaemic heart disease), mainly because of simple, cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use and high blood pressure, and improved coverage and effectiveness of health interventions.

However, although people are living longer, they are not necessarily healthier than before— nearly a quarter (23%) of the overall global burden of death and illness is in people aged over 60, and much of this burden is attributable to long-term illness caused by diseases such as cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease, musculoskeletal diseases (such as arthritis and osteoporosis), and mental and neurological disorders [Paper 2].

This long-term burden of illness and diminished wellbeing affects patients, their families, health systems, and economies, and is forecast to accelerate.  For example, latest estimates indicate that the number of people with dementia is expected to rise from 44 million now, to 135 million by 2050.

“Deep and fundamental reforms of health and social care systems will be required,”* says Dr John Beard, Director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at the World Health Organization (WHO), and co-leader of the Series with Dr Ties Boerma and Dr Somnath Chatterji, also from WHO. “But we must be careful that these reforms do not reinforce the inequities that drive much of the poor health and functional limitation we see in older age.”*

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Doctors Without Borders Is Experimenting With Delivery Drones To Battle An Epidemic

via www.postaltechnologyinternational.com


Drones aren’t delivering pizza just yet. But they could soon help save lives in places where health care is hard to reach.

It’s going to be a while before Amazon’s drones are delivering Christmas presents to anyone’s doorstep. But in the remote forests of Papua New Guinea, one startup’s vision for delivery drones is already coming to life.

In September, executives of Matternet, a Silicon Valley drone startup, traveled to the Pacific Island nation at the invitation of the government and Doctors Without Borders staff, who are helping battle a serious tuberculosis epidemic in the rural regions of the country.

“We’re working in one of the biggest swamps in the world,” says Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, in French) program manager Eric Pujo. “It is a very challenging environment, and to run a good tuberculosis project, one of the key points is diagnostic. The earlier you can put a patient under treatment, the more likely you’ll stop it from spreading,” he says.

The trouble for the doctors is transporting patients’ samples, which need to be analyzed quickly for an accurate diagnosis. In the Kerema district, the samples must travel from clinics to a central hospital that is anywhere from 15 to 85 miles away. Roads are either barely passable due to the mud or don’t exist at all. Planes, boats, and walking make for an unpredictable journey that can take a few hours or a few days. Pujo, who had heard a presentation given by Matternet CEO Andreas Raptopoulos, got in touch with the company when he realized that low-cost drones could be an ideal alternative.

The pilot project is an early test for Matternet, a Palo Alto, California, company that aims to build drone transportation networks in world regions with limited or poor roads. In August, the company worked with the World Health Organization to complete another pilot test in the high mountains of Bhutan. Raptopoulos believes drones can allow developing nations to “leapfrog” in transportation and shipping, just as they have in the realm of communications, where the rise of cheaper mobile devices minimized the need to build expensive landline infrastructure.

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Siriraj claims breakthrough antibody treatment could cure Ebola

The Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, holds a press conference to introduce its Ebola virus antibody treatment in Bangkok Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, holds a press conference to introduce its Ebola virus antibody treatment in Bangkok Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Researchers at Siriraj Hospital, part of Mahidol University, claim they have developed the world’s first “antibody treatment” that could cure Ebola virus infections.

At least a year away from practical application, the antibody was called a significant step toward finding a cure for the disease, which has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa this year. Currently there is no cure, although several experimental drugs have been deployed in the battle against the epidemic.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation said Wednesday it has at least 1,500 doses of an experimental vaccine ready to be given to medical personnel fighting the disease in Africa. The German Press Agency said WHO has been working to speed up testing of two experimental-stage vaccines – chimpanzee adenovirus developed by British company GlaxoSmithKline and a US government laboratory, and VSV developed by Canada’s health agency.

Siriraj’s antibody – developed with the use of human genes, not the Ebola virus itself – is small enough to enter infected cells and access virus proteins within them, doctors said. The antibody is five times smaller than what is being tested in the United States, said Dr Udom Kachinthorn, dean of the medical science faculty at Siriraj.

He said the Thai antibody had different structures and mechanisms and was more efficient, making a cure derived from it more effective.

Researchers used synthesised Ebola genes in development of the antibody and tested them on samples of haemorrhagic-fever viruses similar, but less virulent, than the five Ebola variants.

Thailand does not possess a Biosafety Level 4 facility required to test on the Ebola virus itself. Doctors also admitted they have not been in contact with the World Health Organisation regarding the purported cure.

The next step will be to conduct testing on animals before moving on to human trials. If the tests are successful, the antibody would then need to be mass produced. That step would be at least a year away, Dr Udom cautioned.

However, he added, the Thai pharmaceutical sector could expedite the drug’s development, pending more tests. To facilitate that, Siam Bioscience, a joint Thai-Cuban pharmaceutical venture launched this year, will join in the research.

Doctors, eager to promote the antibody treatment as the first of its kind developed in Thailand, emphasised it is not a vaccine. Dr Wanpen Chaicumpa, head of the Ebola antibody-development team, said the treatment would be administered after infection through injection.

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Development of New Biomedical Implants With The Ability of Bone Healing Accelerating

Electron micrograph of an osteoblast cell expanding on the implant by grabbing onto the pores.

Electron micrograph of an osteoblast cell expanding on the implant by grabbing onto the pores.

A major success in developing new biomedical implants with the ability to accelerate bone healing has been reported by a group of scientists from the Department of Restorative Dentistry, University of Malaya.

This stems from a project partly funded by HIR and also involves Mr. Alireza Yaghoubi, HIR Young Scientist.

According to WHO (World Health Organization), between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population over 60 years is expected to increase from 605 million to more than 2 billion. This trend is particularly more prominent in Asia and Europe where in some countries by 2050, the majority of people will be older than 50. That is why in recent years, regenerative medicine has been among the most active and well-funded research areas in many developing nations.

As part of this global effort to realize better treatments for age-related conditions, a group of scientists from the department of restorative dentistry, University of Malaya and four other universities in the US have recently reported a major success in developing new biomedical implants with the ability to accelerate bone healing.

The two studies funded by the National Science Fund (NSF) in the US and the High Impact Research (HIR) program in Malaysia tackled the issue of bone-implant integration from different angles. In the first study appearing on the front cover of the July issue of Applied Surface Science, researchers demonstrated a mechanically superior bioactive coating based on magnesium silicates rather than the commercially available calcium phosphate which develops microcracks during preparation and delaminates under pressure. The new material owing to its lower thermal mismatch with titanium can prolong the durability of load-bearing orthopedic implants and reduce chances of post-surgery complications.

The other study published in the American Chemical Society’s Applied Materials & Interfaces reported a method for fabricating titanium implants with special surface topographies which double the chance of cell viability in early stages. The new technique is also much simpler as compared to the existing ones and therefore enables the preparation of personalized implants at the fraction of time and cost while offering a higher mechanical reliability.

Alireza Yaghoubi, the corresponding author of both studies believes that we are moving toward a future of personalized products. “It is very much like your taste in music and TV shows. People are different and the new trend in biotechnology is to make personalized medicine that matches the patient’s needs” Yaghoubi said. He continued “With regard to implants, we have the problem of variations in bone density in patients with osteoporosis and in some cases, even healthy individuals. Finding ways to integrate the implants with bone tissues can be challenging. There are also problems with the long-term performance of implants, such as release of debris from bioactive films which can potentially lead to osteolysis and chronic inflammation”.

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