Vax-chemo combo offers some hope in pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is hard to treat, with survival figures as low as 0.4% at 5 years. Adding a cancer vaccine to standard therapy could boost survival, according to a study from U.S. universities presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, part of Digestive Disease Week in San Diego.

NewLink Genetics ($NLNK) is developing a pancreatic cancer vaccine, called HyperAcute Pancreas (algenpantucel-L), which is in Phase III trials. The vaccine combines two genetically altered pancreatic cancer cell lines that express the enzyme α-1,3 galactosyl transferase, and these cells trigger an immune response against the patient's tumor cells.

In the study presented at the meeting, the researchers treated 70 patients with pancreatic cancer with standard chemotherapy and the cancer vaccine after their surgery. The results suggested an improvement in survival, which the researchers described as "promising." While this is early research, and the improvement is only small, it could point the way to more approaches for this area of cancer with huge unmet needs.

HyperAcute Pancreas was featured in FierceBiotech's look at key attacks on the disease last year.

- read the press release
- see the abstract

Special Reports: NewLink Genetics - Biotech IPOs of 2011 | HyperAcute Pancreas - Biotech's 5 key attacks on pancreatic cancer