Amazon partners with Fred Hutchinson Cancer on cancer vaccine trial 

Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are working together on a Phase 1 FDA-approved clinical study that will investigate a personalized neo-antigen peptide vaccine for melanoma and certain types of breast cancer.

According to a listing on, the study aims to recruit 20 participants.

Amazon will offer scientific and machine learning capabilities in the alliance with the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

In particular, the Phase 1 study will focus on patients with stage IIIC-IV melanoma or hormone-receptor-positive HER2 negative breast cancer. In addition, patients’ cancer in the trial must either be metastatic or refractory.

Patients in the study will receive a weekly intramuscular injection of poly ICLC in weeks when no vaccine is administered. Poly ICLC is an immunostimulant composed of polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid, carboxymethylcellulose and polylysine.

Two weeks afte…

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Why research on hematologic malignancies is ramping up

Micrograph of a plasmacytoma, a hematological malignancy. [Image courtesy of Wikipedia]

Oncology has benefited from a wave of advances in recent decades. From 1991 to 2018, the age-adjusted overall cancer death rate dropped 31%, according to an analysis from American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). That death rate dropped 2.4% between 2017 and 2018, marking the most significant annual reduction.

The reasons for such improvements are multifaceted, including falling smoking rates, improved diagnosis and more effective drugs.

The popularity of immunotherapy has played a vital role in improving treatment outcomes of certain cancers. “It is amazing to think about how much immunotherapy has changed the practice of oncology,” recently wrote Dr. John M. Burke in Targeted Oncology. Burke, a hematologist and medical oncologist at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, said data from the past two decades…

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Immunotherapy against cancer: Challenge and opportunities

Image from Wikipedia.

With some of the recently developed drugs showing unprecedented response rates and consistent improvement in overall survival in some indications, we face the dawn of a new era in anticancer research. New therapeutic targets, novel classes of products, booming and competing pipelines, innovative statistical methods, and a changing regulatory environment are all features of this new era.  

More than ever, we need clinical trials that can incorporate the required innovations into their design, conduct, infrastructure and analysis. Fortunately, specialist CROs stand ready to take what they have learned from the past 10 years of oncology drug development and apply it to the new world in which we find ourselves. 

These CROs already know how to meet the challenges of segmented study populations and an increasingly competitive development landscape, how to implement complex and adaptive…

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BioNTech and Moderna set their sights on treating cancer

Nodular melanoma. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

COVID-19 vaccines launched BioNTech and Moderna into the limelight, making these once little-known companies prominent companies. But neither wants to be pigeonholed as a COVID-19 vaccine company.

BioNTech cofounder Özlem Türeci stressed in a recent interview with AP that the mRNA vaccine technology that is its focus could be a powerful weapon against cancer. “We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” said Türeci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer.

Such therapy could be available to people within a “couple of years,” Türeci said, stressing that it is difficult to predict regulatory timelines involving emerging therapies. 

BioNTech is currently working on several novel immunotherapies for oncology targeting melanoma, prostate cancer and cancers associated with human papillomavirus. 

Moderna is also exploring the possibility of…

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OcoSec eyes next steps with its cancer immunotherapy

OncoSec (NASDAQ: ONCS), a cancer immunotherapy company currently focused on R&D, is planning U.S. promotion of its tavokinogene telseplasmid (TAVO) drug for a type of metastatic melanoma — and eventually other cancers.

“We don’t currently have a sales force. If successful, we’re going to need to have a sales and marketing team embedded in the company or out-license that,” said Dan O’Connor, OncoSec CEO.  

The company recently received $5 million from Woburn, Mass.-based Sirtex, a manufacturer of targeted cancer therapies, for a non-exclusive option to jointly promote OncoSec’s TAVO (tavokinogene telseplasmid) for melanoma in the U.S. If the option is exercised, Sirtex will pay an additional $25 million. 

The two companies are similar in their oncology focus using a drug-device combination. 

In the following interview, O’Connor shares details of the potential partnership with Sirtex provides an overview of the company’s progress on the R&D …

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