City of Hope radiation safety officer Joseph Patricko stepped up to the plate recently as the first volunteer to be inoculated with a vaccine meant to protect against cytomegalovirus, or CMV.
More than half of the adults in the United States are infected with CMV, a type of herpes virus, but most show few symptoms. However, infected people who must take immunosuppressant drugs after bone marrow or organ transplant cannot keep the virus in check and can develop a fatal form of pneumonia.
When approved, the CMV vaccine — the first vaccine developed at City of Hope to reach human clinical trial — could be used to inoculate donors before transplant in hopes of transferring CMV immunity to recipients. The vaccine was developed in the lab of Don Diamond, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory
of Vaccine Research in Beckman Research Institute’s Division of Virology.
Patricko, one of the first 30 City of Hope volunteers to sign up for the phase I safety trial, said, “I felt like doing something more than just showing up for work every day; it feels good knowing that I am taking part in something big at City of Hope that may benefit others.”
John Zaia, M.D., professor and chair of the Division of Virology and the trial’s principal investigator, said the goal is to enroll at least 200 volunteers and test at least half of them.
“Participation in a phase I trial is always a humanitarian gesture, usually without benefit to the research participant, and done mostly for new information that could help others,” said Zaia. “At a research center that prides itself on new treatment development, this is an opportunity for staff to experience first hand what it is like to be involved in such work.”
Administering the first injection was Brenda Williams, R.N., nurse manager of the General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) at City of Hope, which oversees the trial. Also present was Corinna La Rosa, Ph.D., a research scientist in Diamond’s lab, who worked on the vaccine’s development for 10 years.
Patricko, like his colleagues who follow, will return to the GCRC for evaluation and three more booster shoots. He also will record his overall reactions in a diary. So far, he does not expect to have much to report. Being a vaccine pioneer, he noted, “is like giving blood — it’s doing something for others.”