A new Brain Cancer vaccine announced at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) meeting in Miami, Florida Tuesday, April 17, 2012, showed patients who suffered from recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, extended their lives by several months.
Glioblastoma multiforme kills thousands every year and around 17,000 Americans are diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. With only 2 percent of them surviving longer than five years, that’s even if they have treatment.
Glioblastoma treatment begins with a surgery that removes the brain tumor. The surgery is then followed by radiation therapy and then chemotherapy to kill any cancer cells that may be left. Most people that have the brain cancer treatment, will have the cancer return a couple months later. That’s when doctors have to operate again and do more chemotherapy.
With this new brain cancer vaccine, doctors are able to use material from the patients own tumor to extend their life. The vaccine is injected into the patients bodies to induce an immune response against the brain tumor.
In a multi-center phase 2 clinical trial researchers found the vaccine, called HSPPC-96. could extend survival for the patients by several months. That’s compared to 80 other patients who were treated at the same hospitals and received standard therapy—47 weeks compared to 32 weeks. Several of the patients who received the cancer vaccine have survived for more than a year, according to UCSF.
UCSF neurosurgeon Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, who led the research said, “These results are provocative. They suggest that doctors may be able to extend survival even longer by combining the vaccine with other drugs that enhance this immune response.”
Dr. Jonas Sheehan, director of neuro-oncology at the Penn State Cancer Institute and was not involved with the study said, “We’ve done a lot of things for this kind of brain tumor in the last 40 or 50 years, all variations on different chemotherapies that haven’t really panned out. What we’ve known needed to happen for a while now is a revolution, a totally new way of approaching these tumors. This is an example of a totally new paradigm.”
“It’s the concept of chronic therapy, to turn this into a chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes. It’s the only therapy in the clinical realm that has a reasonable chance of doing this, because we can’t give patients chemotherapy because of toxicity for unlimited amounts of time,” said neurosurgeon Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, who wanted to note that no drug companies funded the study.
Part of the funding for the Phase 2 trial came from a $1.5 million-a-year grant to UCSF from the National Cancer Institute called Brain Tumor SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence). It’s now in the 10th year.
The brain cancer vaccine study was also partially paid for with funds provided by the patient advocacy groups American Brain Tumor Association, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure and the National Brain Tumor Society.