Specialty pharmaceutical company BioSante Pharmaceuticals Inc. today announced positive results for their leukemia vaccine. The results of a human clinical study show that the company’s GVAX leukemia vaccine may be able to reduce or eliminate the last remaining cancer cells in some chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) patients taking the drug Gleevec. All patients enrolled in the trial used Gleevec for at least one year and still had cancer cells present. In addition, the vaccine produced relatively few side effects.

The research was funded by the National Institute of Health. The study was conducted by researchers at the John Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The researchers used a vaccine made from CML cells irradiated to halt their cancerous potential and genetically altered to produce an immune system stimulator called GM-CSF. The treated cells also carry molecules called antigens, specific to CML cells, which prime the immune system to recognize and kill circulating CML cells.

The research study was led by Hyam Levitsky MD, professor of oncology, medicine and urology at the Cancer Center. Dr. Levitsky commented on the research, “We want to get rid of every last cancer cell in the body, and using cancer vaccines may be a good way to mop up residual disease. More research to confirm and expand the results is needed.”

BioSante Pharmaceuticals owns the commercial rights to all GVAX vaccines as a result of its acquisition of Cell Genesys in 2009. The company stated that the work being done by John Hopkins with their vaccine’s effect on leukemia is one of many different forms currently being investigated including pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and multiple myeloma.