Treatment: Stimuvax
Maker: Biomira/Merck KGaA
Stage: Phase III expected to begin December 2006.

Why It Matters

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States for both men and women. It is more lethal than the next three most common cancers combined (colon, breast and prostate) and will kill 160,000 people in the United States in this year alone.

How It Works

Stimuvax is designed to vaccinate the body against Nonsmall cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for about 80 percent of all cases. The vaccine works by inciting the immune system to attack cancer cells. It consists of a snippet of a cell surface protein called MUC-1, which has been linked to cancer. This protein is displayed with a bacterial cell wall component on fat droplets known as liposomes, which are believed to enhance immune recognition of cancer proteins. "It's relatively nontoxic and doesn't have the side effects of more traditional forms of therapy," says Biomira president and CEO Robert Kirkman.

Results from its phase IIb study revealed the median survival rate for patients with stage IIIB NSCLC, who have cancers too large to surgically remove, was 30.6 months when given Stimuvax versus 13.3 months for patients who received only a placebo.

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