The current recommended treatment plan for many women after receiving chemotherapy and/or surgery for triple-negative breast cancer or ovarian cancer is to wait, says Peter Hoang, president and CEO at Jacksonville, FL-based TapImmune, which develops treatments for ovarian and breast cancers.
Waiting isn’t the approach Hoang wants to take. That’s why he’s enthusiastic about a cancer vaccine under development by TapImmune that could help prevent recurrence of such cancers in women. The treatment is described by the company as boosting the immune system to make the “helper cells in our bodies more powerful.”
In partnership with the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and AstraZeneca, the company has commenced clinical trials to evaluate this cancer vaccine.
Managed Healthcare Executive (MHE) recently interviewed Hoang about the vaccine, which is in a Phase 2 clinical trial. A lightly edited version of this conversation follows.
MHE: What’s the promise of this therapy? Is the goal that it be used in a way similar to the HPV vaccine?
Hoang: I think that’s the goal with a lot of cancer vaccines, that they be used as a preventative measure. In some ways, that’s how it’s being used today. The patients who receive this therapy are in remission. What happens after a patient gets ovarian cancer therapy—that’s likely chemotherapy—generally, the patient is put into remission, which means there are very low levels of cancer in the patient. Almost all of those patients will end up relapsing. With ovarian cancer, more than half of those patients will relapse within a year.
While that patient is in remission and is stabilized, that’s when we give them the cancer vaccine. The goal is to drive the immune response to help fight relapse when it occurs and attack the tumor, thereby extending the life of the patient.
There are very clear genetic factors that leave women predisposed to ovarian cancer and triple-negative breast cancer. Obviously, we’d like to offer this treatment for women who are diagnosed with this biomarker—and before they get cancer. That would require much larger clinical trials. It would certainly be fundable once we got the drug approved for use in patients in remission.