Researchers working to prevent cancer re-occurrence through immunotherapy

Clinical trials for cancer vaccines show promise

SAN ANTONIO – According to the American Cancer Society over 595,000 people will die from cancer in the United States this year. And while there are many effective ways of treating cancers, there is always the risk of re-occurrence.

KSAT12 News sat down with Dr. George Peoples, who was announced as the 2016 BioMed SA Award winner for Innovation in Healthcare and Bioscience for his work as a surgeon and pioneer in cancer immunotherapy.

A cancer diagnosis is difficult, but being told you have cancer for a second time is life shattering.

"It is devastating for the patient, it’s devastating for their family and quite frankly you become emotionally involved as well with that patient," said Dr. George Peoples, CEO for Cancer Insight and Director of Cancer Vaccine Development Program.

Cancer re-occurrence is one of the biggest challenges for surgical oncologists.

"Those are the patients who really have long term issues and will often times succumb to the disease. It really has become a bit of a crusade if you will to prevent cancer re-occurrence," Peoples said.

It’s why he founded the Cancer Vaccine Development Program (CVDP), which focuses on the creation and testing of cancer vaccines.

"Cancer vaccines... a way to teach the immune system what to recognize on a cancer.  Similar to a polio vaccine, where you use the polio virus or an attenuated version of it and you teach a person’s immune system to recognize that polio virus. So that if you are ever exposed [to polio], then you already have the immunity to prevent infection,” Peoples said.

In other words, it’s a more targeted approach than chemotherapy. The goal is to create a vaccine to help your immune system identify the difference between cancerous cells and non-cancerous cells that would also provide the body with a resistance to prevent the cancer from making a comeback.

"That is the goal. We can prevent recurrence, we can prevent cancer death that’s as simple as I can state it," Peoples said.

It can take decades before a vaccine or drug is approved for the general public. In the past, many cancer vaccines were unfortunately tested on late stage patients, not the ones who would benefit most from the drug. It's why CVDP’s approach to clinical trials for their drug- NeuVax is paving the way for new methods in testing potential vaccines.

For more information on NeuVax click here.