A vaccine for colon cancer?!

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is on a roll.  Wow.

This time it’s immunotherapy for colon cancer. As the ACS notes, this is only one of several improvements in cancer treatment now in the works.  However, it might be a particularly important one.

A drug developed by researchers at the Hospital is about to enter Phase II clinical trials. Here’s the story:

After identifying the Guanylate Cyclase C enzyme in the early 1990s, Scott Waldman, MD, and Adam Snook, MD, are set to take a vaccine that targets the enzyme to destroy metastatic tumors to a phase II trial in 2017.

Here’s what you should know.

1. Dr. Waldman and Dr. Snook are both professors at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and Dr. Waldman is the chair of the department of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics.

They reported the enzyme has been “shown to be highly accurate for detecting the spread and predicting recurrence of colorectal cancer.” The duo’s vaccine instructs the immune system to stop metastatic tumor cells and destroy them.

2. Dr. Waldman said the preliminary findings on the vaccine “mean we have the potential to limit the aggressive nature of this disease and prevent metastases.”

3. Exton, Pa.-based Targeted Diagnostics & Therapeutics holds the rights to the drug and has supported the work in Dr. Waldman’s lab.

4. After 15 years of research and several lab and animal-based studies, Dr. Waldman’s new drug application was approved by the FDA in 2013. His phase I trial tested the safety and tolerability of the drug in stage I and II cancer patients. It was safe and well-tolerated.

5. Dr. Waldman recently secured funding for a phase II trial. It’s set to take place in 2017, pending FDA approval. It will assess the vaccine’s effectiveness with intent of commercializing the vaccine. The trial will take two years.

6. If the trial can show efficacy, the physicians will seek Orphan Drug Status to “fast-track” it to the market.

In short, the drug identifies colon cancer cells to the body’s immune system for attack. The Phase I trial established that the drug itself would do no immediate harm to the patient. Phase II will assess how effective it is.

What you should consider:

  • IF the drug works as it appears to, trials like this can be lifesavers for patients with advanced colon cancer. 
  • Do you know someone who might want to participate in the trial?


  1. Eric Oliver, “Metastatic tumor-destroying vaccine for colon cancer patients to begin phase II trial: 6 key notes,” Becker’s GI and Endoscopy, original date, 16 November 2016, (re)published 4 April 2017. http://www.beckersasc.com/gastroenterology-and-endoscopy/metastatic-tumor-destroying-vaccine-for-colon-cancer-patients-to-begin-phase-ii-trial-6-key-notes.html
  2. Viral Gene, Inc., “Viral Gene Announces Breakthrough in Colon Cancer: New Vaccine Targets Enzyme to Help Destroy Metastatic Tumor Cells,” press release, 22 November 2017. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/viral-gene-announces-breakthrough-in-colon-cancer-new-vaccine-targets-enzyme-to-help-destroy-metastatic-tumor-cells-300366844.html
  3. American Cancer Society, “What’s new in colorectal cancer research?” 1 March 2017. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/new-research.html

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