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Paul Martini Prize for therapeutic vaccines against brain tumors

Date: 16.04.2024

On April 15, 2024, neurologist Professor Michael Platten received the Paul Martini Prize for the development of therapeutic vaccines against malignant brain tumors. The Paul Martini Prize is awarded annually by the Paul Martini Foundation for outstanding achievements in clinical-therapeutic drug research. It is endowed with €50,000. The award ceremony took place during the 130th Congress of the German Society for Internal Medicine at the Kurshaus Wiesbaden.

"Based on detailed knowledge of the cancer cells and the microenvironment in brain tumors, Prof. Platten and his team are developing therapeutic vaccines that actually show efficacy where other therapies fail. Even though they still need to be proven in further studies, this gives hope to patients with brain tumors that are still difficult to treat. And it strengthens the expectation that tumor vaccines will also be able to be used against other types of cancer in the future," said the six-member jury, chaired by Prof. Stefan Endres of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.

Michael Platten is particularly interested in gliomas. The prognosis for patients with these brain tumors is usually very poor: complete surgical removal is only possible in rare cases, and recurrences after radiation or chemotherapy are the rule. Approximately 6,000 people in Germany die of glioma every year.

Michael Platten explains how the newly developed vaccines work: "Mutations in the genetic material of tumor cells often lead to altered proteins that are typical of cancer. A vaccine can make the patient's immune system aware of such mutated proteins, so that it directs T cells to the corresponding cells."

One of the vaccines developed by Michael Platten and his team directs immune cells to glioma cells with a mutated IDH1 protein. In a first study in patients, it induced the desired immune response in the tumor tissue and proved to be safe. 72 percent of fully vaccinated patients were still alive six years after vaccination.

Another vaccine targets midline gliomas. These form near the brain stem and are often characterized by a mutated histone H3 protein. A vaccine targeting these tumors has been shown to be safe and to induce the expected immune response in a first trial in patients with these tumors.

Subsequent studies will investigate, among other things, whether booster vaccinations can further improve treatment outcomes.

In parallel to vaccine development, Michael Platten and his team are also investigating how the microenvironment within gliomas influences the activity of immune cells. Understanding this may help make therapeutic cancer vaccines and other immunotherapies more effective.

The Paul Martini Foundation

The non-profit Paul Martini Foundation, headquartered in Berlin, Germany, promotes drug research and drug therapy research and intensifies the scientific dialogue between medical scientists at universities, hospitals, the research-based pharmaceutical industry, other research institutions and representatives of health policy and public authorities. The Foundation is supported by the vfa, Berlin, an association that currently represents 48 research-based pharmaceutical companies.

The foundation is named after the scientist and physician Professor Paul Martini (1889-1964) in recognition of his special contributions to the promotion and further development of clinical-therapeutic research, which he significantly shaped for decades with his "Methodology of Therapeutic Investigation" published in 1932.