New Brain Cancer Vaccine Displays Success In Second Clinical Trial
April 18, 2012

New Brain Cancer Vaccine Displays Success In Second Clinical Trial

Connie K. Ho for

On Tuesday, April 17, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) presented results at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) meeting in Miami, Florida that a new brain cancer vaccine tailored to individual subjects had been successful in its second clinical trial.

The vaccine is for patients who suffer from recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, a type of cancer, and it has helped extend patients´ lives. The trial compared the new vaccine with a standard treatment that lasted 47 weeks. The patients were gathered from a number of facilities, including UCSF's Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, and several of them who received the new treatment were able to survive for over a year.

"These results are provocative," remarked UCSF neurosurgeon and lead researcher Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, in a prepared statement. "They suggest that doctors may be able to extend survival even longer by combining the vaccine with other drugs that enhance this immune response."

Past glioblastoma treatment has focused on surgical resection, where surgeons remove cancerous tissues from the brain and then follow up with radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Therapeutic cancer vaccines are fairly new and a prostate cancer vaccine was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. With cancer vaccines, patients are given an injection that induces an immune response to help the body fight pathogens. In the past, cancer vaccines were thought to not be effective. However, several brain cancer advocacy groups pooled together resources to request doctors at leading cancer institutes to look into new ways of treating glioblastoma. It lead to Parsa and his team basing the cancer vaccine on molecular bundles called heat shock proteins. The molecules are taken from the tumors of patients for a personalized vaccine.

The funding for the new brain cancer vaccine´s second clinical trial was provided through different groups. One of the strongholds was a $1.5 million-a-year grant from the National Cancer Institute. The grant aims to improve studies done in the lab and translate them to measurable benefits´ to a patient´s treatment and progress. Besides the grant from the National Cancer Institute, the research group received support from organizations like the American Brain Tumor Association, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, and the National Brain Tumor Society. Following the success of the second clinical trial, the researchers hope to test the effectiveness of combining the vaccine with the drug Avastin.

"It never would have happened without [the organizations]," continued Parsa. "Patient advocacy groups are an important component of how we inform patients about this disease. These groups are also increasingly critical to funding translational research, which bridges the gap between the laboratory and the clinic."