Cambridge company to be sold after its cancer drug fails
A pioneering experimental cancer vaccine made by Therion Biologics of Cambridge failed to help pancreatic cancer patients in its key human trial, and the company is being put up for sale.
Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer survive an average of only three months. In a 255-patient trial, doctors injected patients with Panvac-VF, a vaccine designed to train the body's immune system to attack cancer cells. The test aimed to extend survival an additional two months, to an average of five months.
The company reported today that the trial had failed, and Therion's remaining assets would be put up for sale.
The news marks the end of the line for a private company that started on the promise of developing an HIV vaccine, and branched out into cancer therapies several years ago, funded heavily by a single wealthy German investor.
It is also another high-profile failure for the concept of cancer vaccines, in which the immune system can be trained to hunt down and kill cancer cells. Such a vaccine would not be given in advance to prevent cancer, but rather administered to cancer patients to help prevent the disease from spreading.
Other companies are attempting to develop cancer vaccines grown from a patient's cells.
Therion is attempting to develop the first "off-the-shelf" cancer vaccine and had built a vaccine manufacturing facility in Kendall Square. It is continuing other tests of Panvac and a prostate-cancer vaccine called Prostvac.
(By Stephen Heuser, Globe staff)