OncoPep vax aims to stop multiple myeloma before it starts

Massachussetts start-up OncoPep has raised $3.65 million to back development of a vaccine designed to prevent multiple myeloma before develops fully into the disease. Current treatment can extend lives of those with the disease, but not cure them.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the blood plasma. The disease starts as abnormal plasma cells in the bone marrow that multiply until they damage the patients' bones and eventually defeat the immune system. OncoPep's vaccine injects pieces of proteins called peptides that are essential to the cancer's survival. By doing this before the disease has advanced, it trains the patient's still-strong immune system to recognize and fight the peptides.

The vaccine will be given only to people who have immune system type HLA type A2, notes MIT Technology Review. Stanford University oncologist Ronald Levy notes that this could pose a challenge for the company. Though 80 percent of people with abnormal plasma cells go on to develop multiple myeloma, only about 10 percent a year actually develop the cancer. That means that OncoPep could be in it for the long haul in order to collect enough data on the company's vaccine. Narrowing the vaccine down to people with a certain type of immune system could further complicate matters.

- here's the MIT Technology Review piece