Is the next big step in cancer therapy personalized vaccines?
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IMAGE: Ezra Cohen, MD, UC San Diego Health physician scientist, administered the first-of-its-kind personalized cancer vaccine to Tamara Strauss, while Lance Miller, MD, PhD, UC San Diego Health physician scientist, Tamara’s… view more 

Credit: UC San Diego Health

Tamara Strauss has been living with high-grade, stage IV pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer for more than three years. Current treatments, although effective for her, are highly toxic. Tamara enrolled in a first-of-its-kind, pilot study at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health to test a personalized vaccine using her unique cancer mutations to boost an anti-tumor immune response.

Led by Stephen Schoenberger, PhD, professor of immunology at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (LJI), and Ezra Cohen, MD, professor of medicine at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, scientists and clinicians have developed a technology that reliably defines the neoantigens — foreign protein fragments recognized by the immune system — in a patient’s cancer.

With neoantigens identified, the team can identify peptides — strings of amino acids — that can be used to create a vaccine to stimulate a protective immune system response. Essentially, the information in a patient’s cancer is used to boost the immune system

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