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Rambam Health Care campus (RHCC) brought together researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School and RHCC for a conference entitled, “Cancer Vaccine and Immunotherapy Program”…

On April 27, 2010, Rambam Health Care campus (RHCC) brought together researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School and RHCC for a conference entitled, “Cancer Vaccine and Immunotherapy Program”.  The conference was intended to strengthen the connection between the institutes, which are engaged in a collaborative effort to develop a cancer vaccine. According to Dr. Irit Avivi, a senior physician in Rambam’s Department of Hematology, “the conference reinforced the scientific, academic and social relations between the two institutes.”  

Dr. Avivi explained that cancer causes functional problems in the immune system. When working properly, the immune system identifies and counters foreign bodies. For this to occur, “antigen presenting cells" (APCs) must point out the cancer cells, to T-cells, which attack and destroy them. In cancer patients, this ‘presentation process’ is damaged, preventing the destruction of cancer cells.

From Right to Left :   Prof. Jacob Rowe – Director, Department of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Rambam Health Care Campus   Prof. David Avigan - Director, Bone Marrow Transplantation/Hematological Malignancy, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston
Prof. Lowell Schnipper - Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston  Dr. Jacalyn Rosenblatt – Division of Hematology/Oncology Division, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston  Prof. Mark Zeidel - Chief, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston                                                      Photo credit: Pioter Flite
 

 A phase one-two study of the Rambam-Harvard research involved 42 patients with multiple myeloma (MM), a hematological malignancy associated with increased presence of plasma cells in the bone marrow.

Outside the body, in the lab, the researchers mechanically fused the patients’ immune cells, called “antigen presenting cells” (APC) with their myeloma cells. These fused cells form a vaccine, able to effectively present tumor cells to the attacking T cells, which destroy them.
The vaccines, produced at disease presentation, are frozen and stored. The participating patients then underwent chemotherapy until their disease level was minimal. At this point, they received the fusion-cell vaccine, which says Dr. Avivi, “stimulates the immune system against the residual.”

“In most evaluable cases we found that the patients’ immune system worked against the tumor, and in many patients, we saw durable remission,” says Dr. Avivi, adding that in the next stage, the vaccine will be tested on patients with kidney cancer and leukemia.

The Rambam and Harvard researchers have been collaborating on the project for five years  They meet three or four times a year and hold weekly conference calls to review all data and to design new studies. While the April conference was the first gathering of its scope, Dr. Avivi says that a similar congress will be held next year.

The conference, “Cancer Vaccine and Immunotherapy Program”, was opened by Director of Rambam Prof. Rafi Beyar and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the Technion Prof. Ido Perlman. Lectures were delivered by Prof. Yaacov Rowe of Rambam; Dr David Avigan of the Dept. of Hemotology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Prof. Doron Melamed of the Technion’s Faculty of Medicine; Dr. Irit Avivi of the Department of Hematology, Rambam; Dr. Yishai Ofron of the Department of Hematology, Rambam; Dr. Jacalyn Rosenblatt of the Department of Hematology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and Prof. Yoram Reiter of the Technion’s Faculty of Biology. Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav attended the research conference.
Prof. Jacob Rowe – Director, Department of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation, Rambam Health Care Campus.

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Cancer Vaccine