FDA Awards Orphan Status to Brain Cancer Vaccine Developed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Novel immunotherapy, SurVaxM, being developed as treatment for glioblastoma

  • Immunotherapy vaccine SurVaxM to be added to FDA registry of orphan drugs
  • Unique vaccine being studied as treatment for glioblastoma, other cancers
  • Phase II clinical trial in glioblastoma underway; larger study anticipated

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has awarded orphan drug status to a promising immunotherapy vaccine developed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The FDA notified MimiVax LLC, a Roswell Park spinoff company, on Aug. 3 that its application for orphan status for SurVaxM as treatment for glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, had been approved.

Orphan status is a special designation awarded to encourage innovation and exploration of approaches to treat rare diseases that affect relatively few people. SurVaxM, also known as DRU-2017-5947, is an immunotherapy drug that targets survivin, a cell-survival protein present in most cancers.

Drs. Robert Fenstermaker, left, and Michael Ciesielski of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and MimiVax LLC.

Invented by two Roswell Park faculty members, the vaccine stimulates the immune system to kill tumor cells that contain survivin, a protein that helps cancer cells to resist conventional treatments. A phase II study of SurVaxM given in addition to standard treatment for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma is ongoing at Roswell Park and four other institutions: the Cleveland Clinic, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“We are excited by the results to date and appreciative of this acknowledgement that SurVaxM holds promise,” says SurVaxM co-inventor Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Neurosurgery at Roswell Park and Chief Medical Officer at MimiVax. “Those of us working to help patients with glioblastoma to live longer realize that the gains from existing therapies have been quite limited. We are eager to move this work forward to a larger multicenter randomized study with the momentum provided by the orphan status designation.”

The vaccine is designed to control tumor growth and recurrence.

“There are a couple of things that distinguish our approach,” adds co-inventor Michael Ciesielski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery at Roswell Park and Chief Scientific Officer for MimiVax. “SurVaxM is an engineered molecule capable of stimulating the immune system in several different ways to recognize and kill cancer cells. And the fact that its target, survivin, is present in many different types of cancer suggests potentially broad application against cancer.”

On the strength of an interim analysis of the in-progress phase II study, the investigators expect to pursue late-stage clinical trials with SurVaxM, pending FDA approval. The vaccine is also being studied in other types of cancer, with a separate clinical study underway looking at SurVaxM as part of combination therapy for multiple myeloma.

The vaccine team credits donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation with moving their vaccine research forward. The Alliance Foundation raises funds in support of research and patient-care programs at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, including the current study of SurVaxM in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma.

For more information about the phase II clinical trial, call 1-800-ROSWELL (1-800-767-9355) or send an e-mail to AskRoswell@Roswellpark.org. Additional details are available at clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02455557.

Glioblastoma is the most common form of brain cancer in adults, with approximately 14,000 cases of the disease diagnosed each year in the United States.


About MimiVax LLC:
MimiVax LLC, is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of immunotherapeutic vaccines and targeted therapies for cancer treatment. Its lead candidate, SurVaxM, an immunotherapy developed at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, is currently undergoing Phase 1 study in multiple myeloma and Phase 2 study in glioblastoma. For more information, visit www.mimivax.com.

About Roswell Park:
The mission of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, Roswell Park is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-Roswell Park (1-866-559-4838) or email AskRoswell@Roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org