EU’s commitment to biomarker-driven personalized vaccines


EU has awarded  €6 million ($7.7 million) to a 14-member consortium of European companies and academic partners to use genomics technologies in order to develop biomarker-driven personalized vaccines for glioma patients.

The German firms Immatics Biotechnologies and BioNTech will lead the Glioma Actively Personalized Vaccine Consortium (GAPVAC) project. They plan to use next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry, and immunomonitoring tools to develop and manufacture actively personalized vaccines (APVACS) that are tailored to individual tumors and patients’ immune systems.

The trial will be headed by investigators at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Geneva.

Immatics said that BioNTech has already shown in preclinical models that using next-gen sequencing for genome-wide mutation identification followed by mutation-targeting vaccination is both feasible and can lead to tumor control.

The APVACs will be manufactured at the University of Tuebingen, and the peptide warehouse will be manufactured by BCN Peptides in Spain.

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Briefly about Glioma

English: Gliobastoma (astrocytoma) WHO grade I...

English: Gliobastoma (astrocytoma) WHO grade IV – MRI coronal view, post contrast. 15 year old boy. Deutsch: Glioblastom (Astrozytom) WHO Grad IV – MRT coronale Schnittführung, nach Kontrastmittel. 15 Jahre alter Junge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gliomas make up ~30% of all brain and central nervous system tumors and 80% of all malignant brain tumors. It is a type of tumor that starts in the brain or spine, but the most common site of gliomas is the brain. It arises from glial cells (that is why it is called a glioma).

Though the exact causes of gliomas are not known, it is linked to Hereditary genetic disorders, and tuberous sclerosis complex and also have been correlated to the electromagnetic radiation from cell phones.

A link between the cancer and cell phone usage is considered plausible, though there is no conclusive evidence. Though it is not very clear but most glioblastomas are infected with cytomegalovirus.

A brain glioma can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting, seizures, and cranial nerve disorders, visual loss, pain, weakness, or numbness in the extremities. Gliomas do not metastasize by the bloodstream, but they can spread via the cerebrospinal fluid and cause “drop metastases” to the spinal cord.

Gliomas are classified by

1. Cell type (Ependymomas, Astrocytomas, Oligodendrogliomas, and Mixed gliomas, such as oligoastrocytomas)

2. Grade (Low-grade gliomas (benign), and High-grade (malignant). High-grade gliomas are commonly called “recurrent cancer of the brain” as they almost always grow back even after complete surgical excision.

3. Location (supratentorial (above the tentorium) or infratentorial (below the tentorium) – these are mostly found in 70% children, and pontine (located in the pons of the brainstem – pons control breathing)

Gliomas are rarely curable and have (high grade gliomas) a worse prognosis with less than a 12-month average survival after diagnosis.

For high grade gliomas (Glioblastoma Multiforme – the most common astrocytoma),  Temozolomide is currently being used in therapy as it is a chemotherapeutic drug that is able to cross the blood–brain barrier effectively. A 2008 meta-analysis showed that Temozolomide is an effective treatment for “prolonging survival and delaying progression as part of primary therapy without impacting on QoL and with a low incidence of early adverse events.”

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