The development of two new vaccines that are hoped to offer an alternative to castration therapy for men with recurring prostate cancer, is due for an $8 million boost in funding.
The pharmaceutical company Madison Vaccines Incorporated (MVI) recently announced the success of a finance round led by Venture Investors, LLC, that has secured the funds to expand a Phase II trial of the MVI-816 vaccine that was otherwise in danger of being “too small to be convincing," explains MVI’s scientific co-founder, Douglas McNeel.
In addition, the funding will enable safety studies of another of the company’s DNA vaccines (MVI-118) to go ahead.
The MVI-816 vaccine is designed to treat prostate cancer patients who have undergone initial surgery or radiotherapy but have found that their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, a biomarker for prostate cancer, is on the rise again after treatment.
Men who have rising PSA levels despite having undergone these initial therapies are at a particularly high risk of the cancer spreading beyond the prostate to other areas of the body.
Currently, their only choice is to “wait and see” whether their PSA continues to rise or to undergo a form of castration, either surgical or chemical. This castration, also known of as androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), deprives the body of testosterone, the hormone that prostate tumors rely on for their growth. The MVI-816 vaccine is hoped to provide a means of reducing prostate cancer growth that avoids the need for castration.
“Our goal in developing MVI-816 is to significantly delay both the onset of metastases and the initiation of [castration] for these patients,” explains president of Madison Vaccines, Richard Lesniewski. “This $8 million financing will allow [us] to advance our efforts to establish a safe and approvable immune activation therapy for men with early malignant prostate cancer.”
The drug is a plasmid DNA vaccine comprising small pieces of modified bacterial DNA designed to induce the body’s immune system to mount an attack against prostate cells that display the prostatic acid phosphatase (PAP) antigen.
“When the plasmid gets inside a professional antigen-presenting cell, it stimulates immune T cells that are responsible for killing tumor cells," explains McNeel.
McNeel also highlighted the significance of developing the start-up’s second vaccine, MVI-118, which targets androgen receptors, molecules that are critical in the progression of prostate cancer and also in the resistance of many current therapies.