A third clinical trial is beginning for phase I testing of SurVaxM, a cancer vaccine. This trial tests for safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in combination with lenalidomide as maintenance therapy for adults with multiple myeloma.1

“Almost all patients with multiple myeloma who go into remission will still have microscopic amounts of disease left following treatment, and this residual cancer eventually can grow back and cause a relapse. It’s a problem compounded by the fact that these patients eventually become resistant to current therapies,” said Kelvin Lee, MD, Jacobs Family Chair of Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, He is leading the phase I clinical trial. “But, in combination with oral lenalidomide, which exhibits both immune-modifying and tumoricidal effects, we believe that this vaccine may trigger antimyeloma immune responses, which may prevent recurrences and eradicate the disease.”

The SurVaxM vaccine was created by Roswell Park faculty members. It stimulates the immune system to target the survivin protein, which helps cancer cells survive under stressful conditions. The first testing of SurVaxM was done in patients with brain cancer. That phase 1 study concluded last year, and now a phase 2 study of the vaccine as part of a combination treatment for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma is ongoing.

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“Vaccines are typically thought of as things to prevent diseases like measles, polio, and mumps. But vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that can also be used to treat cancer. They can be used in a therapeutic mode, rather than a preventive mode,” said Robert Fenstermaker, MD, chair of neurosurgery at Roswell Park. “And cancer vaccines, in general, tend to have few serious side effects.”

“We are the first team to test this approach as a therapy for multiple myeloma, and it’s very exciting,” added Lee, who noted that the study will be conducted in adults whose disease is in remission following completion of standard therapy for multiple myeloma. “The primary purpose of this study is to determine whether this therapy is safe, but our investigations will also allow us to explore new ways of stimulating the immune system to fight cancer cells.”

Roswell Park is partnering on this research with Celgene Corp, manufacturer of lenalidomide, and MimiVax LLC, the licensed developer of SurVaxM.


1. Immunotherapy developed at Roswell Park being tested as treatment for multiple myeloma [news release]. Buffalo, NY: Roswell Park Cancer Institute; May 31, 2016. http://newswise.com/articles/immunotherapy-developed-at-roswell-park-being-tested-as-treatment-for-multiple-myeloma. Accessed June 2, 2016.