Personalized brain tumor vaccine shows promise in trial


An experimental vaccine could improve the survival of patients with a lethal brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme, compared with standard care alone. This research was published in the journal Neuro-Oncology.

According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, glioblastoma mutiforme (GBM) accounts for around 15% of all brain tumors, with onset being most common between the ages of 45 and 70.

The study researchers, led by Orin Bloch of the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, say the tumors often become resistant to standard treatments, and median survival from recurrent GBM tumors is approximately 3 to 9 months.

"We are talking about fast-growing tumors that invade normal brain tissue and are very difficult to treat," says Bloch. "These tumors occur in up to 23,000 Americans annually, and are typically treated with surgical resection of the tumor followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment."

Vaccine tailored to each patient

With these factors in mind, the researchers set out to test a vaccine against the cancer. They note that at present, there are a number of vaccines available for cancer treatment, but none of these are approved for use against GBMs.

The vaccine, called heat-shock peptide protein complex-96 (HSPPC-96), is developed specific to each patient using their own resected tumor tissue.

The investigators say the vaccine works by prompting an immune system response unique to each patient, which sets out to kill any remaining tumor cells following surgery.

Promising results

In a phase II trial, the researchers tested the vaccine on 41 adult patients who had recurrent tumors between 2007 and 2011. Every patient received six does of the HSPPC-96 vaccine.

On monitoring the patients at 6 months after treatment, 90% were still alive, while 30% were alive after 1 year.

Bloch says that studies such as this are vital, because current treatment methods do not stop GBMs from returning. He adds:

"The grim prognosis is exactly why new research is important. GBMs have been around for a long time, and still outcomes are poor. With studies such as this one, I believe we can change that."

Further research needed before approval

Although these results are promising, the investigators say further research is needed before the vaccine can be approved to treat recurrent brain tumors.

Their next step is to conduct a randomized phase II trial to determine whether the HSPPC-96 vaccine is safer and more effective when used alongside avastin - a drug that is standard therapy for recurrent GBM and one known to reduce tumor size.

Commenting on their research, Andrew Parsa, of the Northwestern Feinburg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, says: "When it comes to brain tumor research, I picture our Northwestern Medicine team climbing a mountain and with every new discovery that shows the potential to prolong survival, we are establishing a new base camp.
Someday, thanks to studies like this one, we'll get to the top of the mountain and convert this particular cancer into a chronic disease - something that patients can live with, controlled by medication."


Source: Medical News Today:

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