Checkpoint inhibitors do not work well in cancers where there is no underlying immune response. One example of such a non-inflamed tumor is prostate cancer.

So a key question is how do we convert a non-inflamed tumor (where few T Cells present) into an inflamed one (T cells are plentiful and active)? 

In this latest episode, using prostate cancer as an example, Dr James Gulley (@gullleyj1) from the National Cancer Institute (pictured below at ASCO 2015) talks about how therapeutic cancer vaccines may achieve this effect.

Dr James Gulley NCI

Giving a cancer vaccine first could make checkpoint inhibitors more effective.

In a recent interview he kindly gave Novel Targets, Dr Gulley talks about the rationale for the PROSTVAC-VF-TRICOM phase 3 cancer vaccine trial in prostate cancer.

He also discusses updated data for a phase 2 trial combining a therapeutic cancer vaccine (PROSTVAC) with a checkpoint inhibitor (ipilimumab) – the data was first presented at ASCO GU earlier this year.

We wrote about it as part of our conference coverage on Biotech Strategy Blog – (subscription required): “How to make non-immunogenic cancers sensitive to checkpoint inhibitors.

Dr Gulley also talks about an interesting new novel target – a transcription factor called brachyury. It’s an antigen that’s involved in drug resistance and might make a promising target for cancer vaccines; the NCI just completed two phase 1 studies.

In Episode 4, you’ll also hear from Dr Oliver Sartor (Tulane) talk about some of the potential “game changers” to watch out for in clinical trials of new prostate cancer treatments.

He also talks about how radiation could be used create an inflamed tumor microenvironment, and a combination trial planned to investigate this. Dr Sartor also picks up on the importance of wiping out myeloid derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) that Dr Lisa Butterfield discussed in Episode 2.

Although this episode is a stand-alone episode, it’s recommended that you listen to earlier episodes of the podcast first to better understand the connections and follow the journey we are taking into novel cancer immunotherapy targets.

For example we heard in Novel Targets Episode 2 from Dr Tom Gajewski (Chicago), that another way to potentially turn a non-inflamed tumor into an inflamed one is by using a STING agonist.

Episode 4 builds on some of the concepts introduced in that episode .

Podcast Music

The music in this podcast episode is by electric violinist and composer David Schulman from his album Quiet Life Motel.


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This podcast episode is sponsored by Genentech. We’re grateful for their support.


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