As promised a few posts ago, there was some news out of the ASH Conference this month concerning the Biovax lymphoma vaccine. Biovest, the company that makes the vaccine, has issued a Frequently Asked Questions bulletin about the vaccine, accessable by clicking here.
According to the FAQ, the clinical trial that was conducted recently did more than just show that the vaccine extended progression-free survival by over a year; it also created some new scientific knowledge about follicular lymphoma: they discovered that a particular protein variation is present on the cancer cells of some patients, and thus in the vaccine (since it is made for each individual patient based on a sample of his or her cells). Those who have this variant, and who were thus treated with the particular variant, had a much longer remission than the others. Previous attempts at a lymphoma vaccine have known about this variant, but did not think it was important. This trial shows that it was very significant.
This has some important implications for the Biovax vaccine: about 50-70% of fNHL patients have this particular protein, and thus would seem to likely benefit from the vaccine; for other types of NHL, pretty much all patients have that protein variant.
This is very exciting news. Vaccines have held a lot of promise (the NHL specialist I saw soon after I was diagnosed was very big on vaccines), but haven't lived up to thjat promise, at least up until now. This seems like a big breakthrough for vaccines, and I'm guessing that further research will improve them still.