Overlook Medical enrolling patients for new brain tumor vaccine

Robert Aiken

Overlook Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, was selected as the only site in New Jersey and one of the first three in the nation to participate in a clinical trial of a unique vaccine that targets the protein that keeps cancer cells alive in brain tumors.

The “SURVIVE” Phase 2B trial, sponsored by MimiVax LLC, will allow doctors at Overlook to treat patients newly diagnosed with glioblastomas with SurVaxM, a first-of-its-kind vaccine that targets survivin, a cell-survival protein found in 95% of glioblastomas and many other cancers.

The neurooncology experts at Overlook are hoping the vaccine will be the key to giving patients a better shot at long-term survival from the disease and improved function. For neurooncologist Dr. Robert Aiken, the lead researcher for the trial at Overlook, that would mean the world to patients with glioblastoma, a debilitating condition with an average survivability of about 16 months.

“I think it represents the possibility of a true advance for this uniformly fatal disorder,” said Aiken, who is co-director of Overlook’s Gerald J. Glasser Brain Tumor Center. “The prospect of surviving for more years, while maintaining function, would be an incredible gift for patients.”

SurVaxM is engineered to recognize survivin-expressing cancer cells as foreign and stimulate patients’ own immune response to control tumor growth and recurrence.

The vaccine is given to patients once they complete the typical post-surgical treatment of radiation and chemotherapy, which usually lasts about 6-8 weeks after surgery to remove the tumor. The vaccine is given every two weeks over a six-week period and then every two months over a 24-month period, from the first injection.

Overlook Medical Center, the flagship of Atlantic Health System’s neuroscience program, has long been at the forefront of using vaccines to treat brain tumors. Aiken said he is encouraged by early data from SurVaxM’s Phase I trial and noted how this vaccine targets survivin.

“It is a directed therapy to the tumor. This is an ideal target,” said Aiken, who is board-certified in neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and in neuro-oncology by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties.

Overlook’s Gerald J. Glasser Brain Tumor Center gives hope to more than a thousand families every year. The center is located in the heart of Atlantic Neuroscience Institute at Overlook, which has been nationally recognized for neuroscience care.

Overlook’s capabilities in treating brain tumors, including an integrated care team, cutting-edge surgical procedures like CyberKnife, as well as conformal radiation, targeted therapy and chemotherapy, surgery guided by fluorescent imaging, brain mapping and awake surgery — in addition to supportive care and comprehensive symptom management — makes it uniquely suited for the trial among hospitals in the region.

“Our team works tirelessly to utilize the latest and most promising techniques and treatment options to give patients the best chance at survival. This vaccine’s targeted approach offers a lot of potential, and we are excited to be part of the trial demonstrating its effects,” said Dr. Yaron Moshel, co-director of the Glasser Brain Tumor Center.