New Weapon Against Brain Cancer

Cancer immunogene therapy being tested with glioblastoma multiforme

(RxWiki News) There's a new light glimmering at the end of the dark tunnel that is brain cancer. A novel gene therapy, combined with radiation, holds promise in treating one of the worst of these cancers.

A phase I study is providing hope for patients with glioblastoma multiforme, the most common and lethal form of brain cancer. The treatment combines surgery with an antiviral drug, followed by radiation to safely and effectively kill cancer cells.

"Cancer immunogene therapy is being tested against brain cancer."

Researchers are using a drug called an adenovirus vector known as AdV-tk. Cancer cells are taken in and killed by this vector.

This is an emerging cancer treatment. Cancer immunogene therapy  is designed to genetically modify cancer cells to stimulate the body's own immune system to attack the malignant tumor.

The new procedure currently being tested involves removing the brain tumor(s) and then applying the vector directly into the tumor bed. Patients take the anti-herpes drug Valtrex (valacyclovir) for two weeks, and radiation begins one week after surgery.

The trial is being conducted at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) and at Methodist at Hospital in Houston, TX.

Dr. E. Antonio Chiocca, professor and chair of neurological surgery and co-director of the Dardinger Center for Neuro-oncology and Neurosciences at Ohio State, says the combined therapy had been thought to be too toxic for patients. However, this trial has demonstrated that this therapy is not overly toxic, and Chiocca calls these findings "encouraging."

After additional trials are completed, this therapy will be compared to the existing standard of care.

Results from this study are published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Review Date: 
August 15, 2011