Conquering Cancer with Vaccine Therapy
by James D. Veltmeyer, MD
Cancer has long been a word that elicits terror and fear in most people. As one of the most dreaded and dreadful diseases ever to afflict mankind, the mere diagnosis of cancer by a physician will send many individuals into immediate panic.
In 2022, there were nearly 2 million newly-diagnosed cases of cancer in the United States and 609,000 deaths, making it the second-most common cause of death after heart disease. California leads the nation with 189,000 new cases, followed by Florida and Texas. However, progress has been steady in recent decades in finally chipping away at the near-certain death certificate usually associated with this disease. There were 3.5 million fewer cancer deaths in 2019 than in 1991 and the age-adjusted cancer death rate dropped from 215 cancer deaths per 100,000 to 146 per 100,000 in 2019, an impressive decline of one-third. This decline is associated with progress made against the four most common cancer types – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate. A reduction in smoking and early detection methods are largely responsible for this improvement.
The five-year cancer survival rate has also increased remarkably over the years, from just 39% among whites in the early 1960s to 68% today and rising from 27% to 63% among African-Americans during the same time period.
Despite the progress, cancer still remains a huge challenge, not just to individuals and their families but also to the pocketbook. Cancer-related direct medical costs in U.S. were $183 billion in 2015 and are projected to grow to $246 billion by 2030, a 34% increase. The price tag of some cancer drugs is simply astronomical.
A major problem in this continuing struggle to eradicate cancer has been excessive reliance on increasingly dated methods of treatment. Almost invariably, Western medicine seeks to treat the symptoms, rather than the root causes of illness. It prefers a “cut and burn” approach to cancer that involves surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Anyone who has gone through conventional cancer treatment knows how draining and debilitating it can be.
Fortunately, new research and new technologies are making the development and distribution of cancer vaccines a reality. Many people are familiar with certain cancer prevention vaccines, like the HPV vaccine. However, the subject of cancer treatment vaccines warrant more discussion and investigation as they offer even greater pathways to stopping cancer in its tracks.
Quite simply, cancer treatment vaccines are a form of immunotherapy that attack cancer by strengthening the body’s natural defenses against cancer cells. Cancer cells contain substances called tumor-associated antigens which are not found in normal cells. Cancer vaccines can help the immune system identify and respond to these antigens and destroy the cancer cells that contain them.
Currently, there are three main ways of generating these vaccines:
- They can be produced from tumor cells themselves, meaning they trigger an immune response against features unique to the patient’s type of cancer.
- They can be produced from tumor-associated antigens found on the cancer cells of many people with a specific type of cancer. Such a vaccine can elicit an immune response in any patient whose cancer produces that antigen.
- They may be made from your own dendritic cells, a type of immune cell. These dendritic cell vaccines stimulate the immune system to respond to an antigen on tumor cells. One such vaccine called sipuleucel-T is used to treat some men with advanced prostate cancer.
What particularly excites me is the use of stem cell technology to develop cancer vaccines. For example, ValloVax consists of cells lining the inner surface of blood vessels. The cells are derived from placenta, the structure that allows a pregnant woman to supply oxygen and nutrients to her unborn baby. Vallovax stimulates an immune response against a number of proteins on the surface of placenta cells. These proteins are also found on the surface of tumor-associated blood vessels, but not healthy blood vessels. Triggering an immune response against the proteins cuts off the blood supply that tumor-associated blood vessels need to keep the tumor growing. Essentially, ValloVax starves the tumor to death. Studies in mice have shown ValloVax slowed tumor growth in lung cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer. Additional studies showed ValloVax triggered immune responses in mouse models of brain and colon cancer. All of this occurred without damaging healthy blood vessels.
A new second-generation version of ValloVax called StemVacs-V™ is even more promising. StemVacs-V™ is derived from a gene-modified stem cell which is designed to express proteins found selectively in cancer such as the antigen Brother of the Regulatory of Imprinted Sites (BORIS). Additionally, the stem cell is gene silenced for receptors which cancer generally uses to block immune cell activation. Once the stem cells are made into dendritic cells, the resulting product is an immunotherapy that: 1) Activates the immune system to selectively kill cancer, without toxicity; and 2) Is resistant to cancer-induced immune suppressive activities; and 3) Can be generated in an economical, reproducible, and consistent manner. The BORIS antigen, which was utilized by Therapeutic Solutions International in preclinical studies, has been demonstrated by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with TSOI Board Member, Dr. Thomas Ichim, to function as a “universal cancer vaccine.”
In a series of experiments, TSOI scientists observed that mice bearing B16 melanoma treated with StemVacs-V™ possessed an increased T cell response towards the tumor-associated antigen BORIS. Additionally, examination of tumors regressing as a result of StemVacs-V™ treatment, revealed increased macrophage and natural killer cell infiltration. Depletion of either T cells or natural killer cells in treated mice abrogated the cancer-reducing activity of StemVacs-V™.
The administration of StemVacs-V™ stimulates the immune system to selectively kill blood vessels that feed the tumor but not healthy blood vessels. It is believed that for every one tumor blood vessel cell that is eradicated, 200 to 300 tumor cells are also eradicated. In contrast to previous approaches, StemVacs-V™ permits the creation of all doses from one standardized cell type, which eliminates the need for multiple placentas, avoiding variability in production. Additionally, as StemVacs-V™ is derived from iPSC, gene editing can be performed in order to increase therapeutic efficacy.
The Veltmeyer Institute for Advanced Biologics is currently leading the way in confronting and conquering the most challenging threats to our health and well-being, including the scourge of cancer. And, the cancer vaccine may just be one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal. With our ground-breaking therapies that seek to attack and disable the source of disease while strengthening the body’s immune response, death is never the inevitable outcome, but, rather, the outcome that it is to be avoided at all costs.
Dr. James Veltmeyer is a prominent La Jolla physician and author of “Physician on a Mission: Dr. Veltmeyer’s RX to Save America.”He was voted “Top Doctor” in San Diego County in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019. Dr. Veltmeyer can be reached at email@example.com and by visiting his website at drveltmeyer.com