Brain Tumor Vaccine

Brain tumors remain one of the toughest cancers to cure. The number of patients with brain cancer is on the rise, and for those with the most aggressive form, glioblastoma multiforme, the outlook is not good. Survival is usually less than a year. Now researchers say they are making progress in the treatment of this deadly cancer and are using the tumor itself to stop the cancer.

Keith Black, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, is on a mission. He is trying to stop a trend he has seen rising.

“The most common cause of cancer death in people younger than 19 in the pediatric population is brain cancer,” says Dr. Black.

The good news is that he may be getting closer to an answer.

Dr. Black says, “We’re in the process now of actually changing the paradigm in the way we’re treating cancer.”

That is good news for brain cancer patient, John Rolland. At 42, he nearly blacked out while driving one day. “Two days later, I found out I had a brain tumor,” says John.

Dr. Black treated John with an experimental therapy called dendritic cell immunotherapy. A piece of John’s tumor was removed and mixed with cells from his immune system. The combination was injected back into John.

“In order for the cancer to survive, one of the things it has to make itself invisible to the immune system,” Dr. Black says. “The first step is to get the immune system to recognize the tumor, then identify it, and mount an immune response against it. It will develop millions of immune cells to go out throughout the body, find these cancer cells and eradicate them.”

In a small study of 10 patients, more than half showed a response to the vaccine. The normal mean survival of 255 days more than doubled in patients given the vaccine.

Dr. Black is encouraged. He says, “I look at this as one of the base hits and we want to get a home run.”

For now, it has at least given John Rolland and other patients something to look forward to. Doctors warn the new vaccine is just the first step in treating brain tumors. Cancer causes other defects in a patient’s immune system, some of which are not addressed by the vaccine.

Source: Ivanoe News 2001

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