Therapeutic cancer vaccines are a heterogeneous group of complex biologics with distinctly different clinical characteristics than cytotoxic agents. The current clinical development paradigm used for oncology drug development is based on criteria developed for cytotoxic agents. More flexible and focused developmental guidelines are needed to address the unique characteristics of therapeutic cancer vaccines. Over the course of 1 year, the Cancer Vaccine Clinical Trial Working Group, representing academia and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries with participation from the US Food and Drug Administration, defined in a consensus process the cornerstones of a new clinical development paradigm for cancer vaccines and related biologics. Four major topics were addressed: (1) end points for clinical trials, (2) trial designs and statistical methods, (3) technical and developmental challenges, and (4) combination therapy.The proposed paradigm suggests therapeutic cancer vaccines to be investigated in 2 general types of clinical studies: proof-of-principle trials and efficacy trials. Proof-of-principle trials, which introduce a novel cancer vaccine into humans, should include a minimum of 20 or more patients in a homogenous, well-defined population in an adjuvant setting or without rapidly progressive disease in a metastatic setting to allow vaccines adequate time to induce biologic activity and should incorporate immune and molecular markers. Objectives should include initiation of a safety database, determination of dose and schedule, and demonstration of biologic activity as proof-of-principle. Biologic activity is defined as any effect of the vaccine on the target disease or host immune system using biologic markers as study end points, for example, clinical, molecular, or immune response. Immune response is demonstrated if determined in 2 separate, established and reproducible assays at 2 consecutive follow-up time points after the baseline assessment. If proof-of-principle trials show such immune response, or other biologic or clinical activity, efficacy trials may be initiated. If none of these end points is met, the clinical development plan should be reevaluated to decide if further development is warranted. Efficacy trials formally establish clinical benefit either directly or through a surrogate and are encouraged to be randomized studies. This is in contrast to single-arm phase 2 trials used for cytotoxic agents, which often use tumor response rate as the primary end point and historical controls as a comparator. Efficacy trials may use prospectively planned adaptive designs to expand from randomized phase 2 into phase 3 studies if well-defined trigger-point criteria are met, but the cost of incorporating such design elements should be carefully evaluated. Efficacy trials can also be exploratory randomized phase 2 trials or conventional phase 3 trials. In addition, conventional clinical end points can be adjusted to account for biologic features of cancer vaccines. The concept of efficacy trials allows for an early assessment of vaccine efficacy based on credible prospective data. This 2-phase developmental paradigm supports a more flexible, expeditious, and focused clinical developmental process with early and informed decision making. In addition, this report addresses clinical development challenges and issues for combination therapies.

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Keywords Cancer vaccines, Clinical development, Clinical trial, Paradigm, Trial design
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Journal Journal of Immunotherapy
Hoos, A, Parmiani, G, Hege, K, Sznol, M, Loibner, H, Eggermont, A.M.M, … Nichol, G. (2007). A clinical development paradigm for cancer vaccines and related biologics. Journal of Immunotherapy (Vol. 30, pp. 1–15). doi:10.1097/