Vaccine against lung cancer: a real therapeutic revolution? Our expert’s opinion

Vaccine against lung cancer: a real therapeutic revolution?  Our expert's opinion

Expected for years, has the vaccine against lung cancer become reality with the results of Tedopi®? This “therapeutic vaccine” makes it possible to reduce the number of deaths compared to patients treated with chemotherapy. Explanations from Professor Nicolas Girard, head of the oncology department at the Institut Curie, on these results.

Monday September 11, the results of a therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer make the front page of Le Parisien. According to the results of the phase 3 clinical trial conducted by the company OSE Immunotherapeutics, a start-up from Nantes and Professor Benjamin Besse, from the Gustave-Roussy Institute, Tedopi®, a “therapeutic vaccine” against cancer of the very advanced small cell lung, would reduce the risk of death at one year by 41% in patients at the metastatic stage, compared to the chemotherapy treatments usually administered. What do we think of these results?

A treatment for cancer, rather than a vaccine

In this situation, we are talking about a vaccine, but it is really a treatment, administered to sick people. “It is the same principle as for classic vaccination” first explains Professor Nicolas Girard, head of the oncology department at the Institut Curie. “The objective is to teach the immune system to recognize dangerous agents, in this case, tumor cells..

With a dual objective: to treat existing cancer but also potential recurrences, the immune system having a memory allowing it to “remember” pathogens. “This is called the immune system carryover effect.” adds the professor.

An overall survival rate of 44% compared to 27% for chemotherapy

In this phase 3 clinical trial, that is to say the phase where the treatment studied is administered to patients, the “therapeutic vaccine” developed was designed with five antigens associated with the tumor. “A way to increase the chances of targeting the tumor as effectively as possible“adds the specialist”because it is not always easy to target the right marker, straight away“.

In total, 219 patients participated in the study, in nine European countries as well as the United States. “These are patients affected by non-small cell lung cancer, at the metastatic stage, who had failed treatment after a first treatment. Patients with an overall poor prognosis” further indicates Professor Girard.

Result of this test: “A one-year overall survival rate of 44.4% with Tedopi® versus 27.5% with chemotherapy” announces the press release. For Professor Benjamin Besse, director of clinical research at the Gustave-Roussy Institute, these results also show that “the vaccine (…) helps maintain a better quality of life for patients” et “fewer side effects” than chemotherapy.

An interesting study, but whose benefits remain “modest”

For Nicolas Girard, the results of this trial are “interesting”: “We note that this vaccine was better tolerated than the chemotherapy usually administered, but several things make me put the significance of these results into perspective. :

  • The fact that all the patients included had not received immunotherapy, which is now the standard treatment protocol to follow, as first-line treatment;
  • The fact that the study had its methodology modified due to Covid-19;
  • And finally, the fact that the High Health Authority does not authorize, after evaluation, early access to this treatment.

For him, the benefits brought by this new therapy are therefore “modest”. “This opens a way, in lung cancer, a hope even, but it is not a treatment that will be immediately accessible to everyone” he concludes.