Grants - Translational Grants - Massachusetts - 2017

Manuel Hidalgo, Ph.D., M.D.

Pancreatic cancer remains a lethal illness with limited treatment options. While harnessing the immune system has demonstrated dramatic results in controlling other cancers, it has so far failed in pancreas cancer. The development of effective immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer requires the activation and expansion of immune cells that recognize and kill the cancer. We have developed a cancer vaccine by fusing malignant cells with powerful immune stimulating cells known as dendritic cells that are capable of inducing anti-tumor immunity. This strategy allows the immune system to see cancer antigens so that they can be recognized and attacked. This vaccine showed excellent results in clinical trials in patients with blood cancers. One challenge to developing a vaccine for pancreatic cancer involves obtaining adequate tumor tissue needed to create a personalize vaccine. We have solved this problem by developing a culture system that allows for growth of a patient’s tumor tissue in vitro known as organoids that can subsequently be fused with patient’s own dendritic cells created personalize vaccine. In our first aim, we will conduct a clinical trial in patients with pancreatic cancer to show the feasibility, safety, ability to stimulate a immune response and preliminary efficacy of the vaccine product. While we expect that this strategy will be feasible and work in some patients, it is likely that it will not be enough for all patients. For that reason, in the second aim, we will work with mouse models to combine the vaccine with strategies that could make it better.