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Funding For Dukes Cancer Vaccine Program


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Cancer Vaccine Efforts At Duke, AlphaVax Receive $4.8M Funding Boost From Department of Defense

Special To LTW

DURHAM, N.C. – A research effort led by scientists at Duke University working with vaccine developer AlphaVax to develop vaccines for breast cancer has received a $4.8 million boost from the federal government.

Breast cancer kills more women annually in the United States than any other cancer with the exception of lung cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 40,000 women die of breast cancer annually, and nearly 270,000 more women are diagnosed as having the disease.

Breast cancer also strikes more than 1,500 men annually.

The news comes just months after a cancer vaccine to combat cervical cancer from Merck won U.S. approval.

The Duke researchers are working on two vaccines that stimulate a patient’s immune system to attack the cancer. The vaccines were developed by AlphaVax and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center as well as Andrea Amalfitano of Michigan State University.

According to Duke, the vaccines could “revolutionize” breast cancer prevention and treatment.

AlphaVax, which was launched in 1998, has developed patented vaccine technology. It has under development a variety of treatments including one in clinical trial that targets HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The Duke research is led by Timothy Clay.

“Importantly, these therapies that use the immune system to fight cancer have generally proven to be safe and to have low toxicity,” Clay said in a statement. ”We expect the same to be true for these two new vaccines. Standard chemotherapy regimens are associated with significant side-effects, so this is a significant advantage of cancer vaccines.”

Funding is coming from the Department of Defense, Breast Cancer Research Program.

The vaccines are based on alphavirus and adenovirus delivery technology. The Duke researchers are targeting a protein that is over produced in more than one third of breast cancer victims to help stimulate the body’s immune system to attack the cancer.

The over-produced protein, called HER2, is also often linked to poor patient prognosis and resistance to chemotherapy, according to Duke.

Duke wants to combine the vaccine treatment with the drug Herceptin, the only FDA-approved drug for treatment of metastatic (cancer that has spread) breast cancer patients linked to the HER2 protein. The drug was approved in 1998.

A combination of the two vaccines will provide what Duke calls a “potent one-two punch” that “triggers strong anti-cancer immune responses”.

AlphaVax: www.alphavax.com

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