Most Americans are leery of bacteria, as evidenced by the large annual market for sanitizing wipes and antibacterial soaps. The idea of using harmful bacteria to treat disease might strike many as an odd concept. But a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey is doing exactly that. Advaxis uses a modified version of the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes to create unique therapeutic vaccines for cancer and other diseases.
The company’s pipeline is based upon 20 years of research by Yvonne Paterson, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Listeria is a common bacterium found in food and soil. It provokes such a strong reaction in the immune system that it’s usually struck down before it can cause any harm. Listeria has a number of disease-fighting properties. Among other things, it has been found to stimulate immune response and destroy regulatory T-cells, which protect the tumor against attacks from the immune system.
Advaxis’ anti-cancer vaccines have performed extremely well in animal studies. The company has also conducted a successful clinical trial on 15 women with metastasized cervical cancer. Only 5 percent of patients with this form of cancer live for 12 months. In the study, over half the patients survived to the the 12-month mark. In addition to targeting cervical cancer, Advaxis is also developing therapeutic vaccines for prostate, breast, and HPV-related head and neck cancer.
In this video, Advaxis CEO Thomas Moore discusses his company at the 2010 OneMedForum in San Francisco.