A new vaccine may offer a new treatment option to cancer diagnosed with a rare, aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). A large international clinical trial has shown this vaccine can extend patient life expectancy from months to years in what is considered by many researchers to be a major breakthrough in the treatment of GBM.
The DCVax immunotherapy vaccine uses cells from the patient’s immune system to combat the malignancy. These dendritic cells are called “key players in the immune system” and are central to the efficacy of the new GBM vaccine.
As lead author Dr. Linda Liau, chair of the neurosurgery department at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA explains, “This treatment actually uses the patient’s own tumor specimen to make the vaccine. This is really a form of personalized immunotherapy that is customized to an individual patient and his/her tumor.”
The longer survival rates for patients with GBM makes the DCVax immunotherapy treatment for GBM a promising treatment option for a disease that often leaves patients with few places to turn once diagnosed.
“The survival rate is quite remarkable compared to what would be expected for glioblastoma. What’s particularly impressive about immunotherapy trials is that there seems to be a population of about 20 to 30 percent of patients who are living significantly longer than expected. It appears that patients who survive past certain threshold time points may continue onwards to unusually long survival times” said Liau.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, GBM is a rapidly developing glioma that form in the glial cells in the brain. The glial cells are responsible for nerve cell health and functioning. GBM has an incidence rate of two to three cases in 100,000 adults per year and comprises fifty two percent of all primary brain tumors. These tumors often occur in patients in ages ranging from 45 to 70 years of age. Currently, the life expectancy after GBM diagnosis is 15 to 17 months but this new vaccine extends a patient’s expected survival by as much as seven years based on research published in the Journal of Translational Medicine. The trial showed that patients in the US, UK, Germany and Canada who received the vaccine after surgery lived on average 24 months longer than those who did not.
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