Summary of Results obtained by DC Vaccinations in patients with Cancer

Five year after the Tumour Immunology Laboratory was founded at the University of Nijmegen the first patients have been vaccinated with dendritic cells in October 1997. By early 2018 over 400 patients have received this experimental treatment. The majority of vaccinated patients had a disseminated, aggressive form of melanoma, a skin cancer. This is an incurable disease, occurring at a relatively young age, with a remaining life expectancy that is measured in months rather than years. A group of patients for whom every month of gained life is more than welcome, but the ultimate goal is cure of this dismal disease.

The efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines continues to be improved throughout the last 15 years. Changes are made to increase its effectiveness and broaden its applicability. In the beginning, only half the patients who qualified for treatment could actually start with the vaccination treatment due to technical restrictions. This hurdle has been taken and dendritic cells can now be “trained” to attack the tumour cells of a much broader range of patients.

We can now identify specific antitumor reactions in about 40% of our patients. In patients displaying this reaction we also see an improved life expectancy. In most cases this concerns a stabilisation of the disease and improvement in survival. Some patients experience a reduced dissemination or even a complete disappearance of metastases, in which case the disease is not manifest for a longer time. These are promising results for the patient with such an aggressive type of cancer.

Progress occurs in small steps, indeed, but clinical results show we are moving in the right direction. Especially prevention of disease recurrence, in patients who have a high risk of relapse after initial surgical treatment, by prophylactic DC vaccinations appears to be a promising approach.

Finally we hope and expect that, thanks to the promising results, dendritic cell vaccination will be reimbursed by the (Dutch) National Health Service in the near future, allowing the ATK foundation to spend its funds to further development of cellular vaccination therapy in cancer. The final study which may lead to recognition of dendritic cell vaccination as a treatment accepted by the National Health system has started in 2017.

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