Giving the Immune System a Boost

Vaccine attacks tumor cells while researchers track the "silent killer"

It may now be possible to boost the power of an ovarian cancer patient's immune system to prevent the disease from returning, says Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, Chair of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. His investigation on the topic was supported by a $90,000 grant using donor dollars and additional grant funding from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Mae Stone Good Trust, and the Cancer Research Institute.

Patients in Odunsi's clinical research study received a vaccine that triggered the body to produce lymphocytes—cells that attack and destroy tumor cells. The results of the trial will lay the groundwork for the future development of adoptive transfer therapy, in which the resulting lymphocytes will be removed from the patient, expanded in the laboratory, and then returned to the patient—thus multiplying the "bullets" of the body's own anti-cancer arsenal.

His research also seeks to understand how genetic traits may suppress the growth of ovarian cancer cells. That information could help identify patients who would benefit most from therapies that harness the immune system.