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RV001: An anti-metastatic cancer vaccine

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in men with millions of new cases every year. European scientists have developed a novel vaccine to prevent disease metastasis, the main cause of mortality amongst advanced prostate cancer sufferers.

The majority of prostate cancer patients are diagnosed at the localised, pre-metastatic stage of the disease. They have to undergo primary tumour excision by surgery or radiotherapy followed by active monitoring to ensure cancer relapse doesn’t occur. Despite the frequent incidence of metastasis formation, there is currently no treatment available post-surgery to directly limit micro-metastasis formation.

Available treatments exhibit serious side effects, mainly focus on later stages of cancer progression and almost always develop resistance. There is an urgent need for therapeutic strategies that act early on in prostate cancer before cancer returns and cancer cells start to spread, making the treatment far more difficult and expensive.

Targeting metastatic cells

In answer to this the EU-funded RV001 project has developed a therapeutic vaccine against metastatic cancer cells. “The RV001 vaccine targets RhoC a protein overexpressed only in metastatic cancer cells″ explains Dr Golnaz Borghei business development associate at the biotechnology company RhoVac. RV001 is the first product of RhoVac and the only drug that targets formation of micro-metastasis at the early stage of cancer progression.

RV001 is the first metastatic cancer vaccine that could potentially be used to treat and prevent practically all types of metastatic cancers. The RV001 concept relies on the reprogramming of the patient T cells. The goal is to enable the recognition and elimination of early stage metastatic cancer cells. Researchers have shown that administration of the RhoC peptide in patients can activate both CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, improving the overall anti-cancer immune response.

Clinical impact of RV001

So far, the vaccine has been tested in prostate cancer patients after removal of the primary tumour and before metastasis formation to address the challenge posed by the high incidence of metastasis following primary tumour excision. Results from the phase I/II clinical trial, which involved 22 patients after prostatectomy, demonstrated the excellent tolerability and safety of RV001. Importantly, the majority (86 %) of patients showed a significantly positive immune response.

As Dr Borghei outlines: “the next step is to validate the efficacy of the drug in a Phase IIb clinical trial in a larger number of patients.″ Nonetheless, she emphasises the need for partnerships and capital investment to secure successful commercialisation of the vaccine.

RV001 has the potential to be administered to more than 150 000 patients in Europe and US alone, helping them at an early stage to reduce prostate cancer burden. This will bring in an estimated revenue of EUR 1 billion by 2030.

RV001 holds important competitive advantages such as targeting a stage of the disease where there is currently no treatment available coupled with high safety and cost-effectiveness. At the same time, scientists are confident it will work against multiple types of metastatic cancer.

The idea is to apply RV001 as monotherapy after surgery or radiotherapy on primary tumour. However, RV001 has the attractive potential to be combined with other therapies to fight metastasis at various stages of cancer development and progression.

Considering that metastasis is responsible for 90 % of cancer deaths, there is undoubtedly a great niche for the development of anti-metastatic drugs. Dr Borghei is hopeful that “RV001 is well positioned to become the standard of care for prevention of metastasis at early stage prostate cancer.″

Reference source:RV001: An anti-metastatic cancer vaccine

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