My research over the last 25 years has been unique in providing data and scientific leadership on the path towards a prevention vaccine for non-viral cancers. Cancer immunotherapy is now a reality and both academia and pharmaceutical companies are focusing on the next best treatment for advanced cancer. This is unfortunate given the fact that even as successful as some cancer immunotherapy was recently shown to be, it helps only a fraction of patients and cures even a smaller subset of those. It is also the most expensive cancer treatment making it less likely to be broadly available to all who need it around the world. What is needed to focus attention of the field on immunoprevention are a few clinical successes and relevant basic science data to help interpret those and point a path forward. My research has been providing such data. Currently I am providing first examples of preventative cancer vaccines in clinical trials. With my clinical colleagues, FDA approval and NCI support, I completed the first in the world clinical trial testing a vaccine based on a human tumor antigen MUC1 in people at high risk for colon cancer This feasibility study enabled the second, currently ongoing, multi-center, double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled efficacy trial that will complete accrual in the Spring of 2016. In analyzing these trials we are obtaining new data, some of it very unexpected, important for the next set of preventative cancer vaccines that I am planning to develop, but also applicable to other vaccines and cancer immunotherapies. In the next seven years, my program will be focused on 1) Learning as much as possible from my first preventative vaccine trials; defining parameters controlling the response to and potential efficacy of the MUC1 vaccine through extensive molecular, cellular and proteomic analysis of PBMC and tissue samples; 2) Providing data in support of other premalignant lesions as candidates for preventative cancer vaccines and designing new cancer prevention trials; 3) Developing a universal vaccine for prevention and control of cancer as well as pathogens. Our work will hopefully encourage other cancer immunologists and immunotherapists to consider immunoprevention of non-viral cancers as an important approach to reducing the cancer epidemic.

Public Health Relevance

Building on over a 25-year effort in cancer immunology, my goals in this application are to provide cellular, molecular and clinical data in support of further development and testing of preventative vaccines for human non-viral cancers

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Unknown (R35)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1)
Program Officer
Mccarthy, Susan A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Pittsburgh
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Fletcher, Rochelle; Wang, Yi-Jun; Schoen, Robert E et al. (2018) Colorectal cancer prevention: Immune modulation taking the stage. Biochim Biophys Acta Rev Cancer 1869:138-148
Finn, Olivera J (2018) A Believer's Overview of Cancer Immunosurveillance and Immunotherapy. J Immunol 200:385-391
Finn, Olivera J (2017) Human Tumor Antigens Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Cancer Immunol Res 5:347-354
Cascio, Sandra; Faylo, Jacque L; Sciurba, Joshua C et al. (2017) Abnormally glycosylated MUC1 establishes a positive feedback circuit of inflammatory cytokines, mediated by NF-?B p65 and EzH2, in colitis-associated cancer. Oncotarget 8:105284-105298
Lohmueller, Jason J; Ham, James D; Kvorjak, Michael et al. (2017) mSA2 affinity-enhanced biotin-binding CAR T cells for universal tumor targeting. Oncoimmunology 7:e1368604
Lohmueller, Jason; Finn, Olivera J (2017) Current modalities in cancer immunotherapy: Immunomodulatory antibodies, CARs and vaccines. Pharmacol Ther 178:31-47