Living Longer With Aggressive Brain Cancer

Glioblastoma multiforme responded to vaccine made from patient tumor tissue

(RxWiki News) Senator Edward Kennedy had a seizure in May of 2008, was diagnosed with brain cancer soon thereafter and died 15 months later. That’s the typical timeline for people diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme.

Today, scientists are testing a novel approach in an attempt to change these grim statistics.

Using an experimental vaccine made from the patient’s own brain tumor tissue, researchers have been able to extend the lives of patients with advanced glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most aggressive form of brain cancer.

The vaccine works by stimulating the patient’s immune system to attack the tumor cells that remain after surgery.

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A research team, led by Orin Bloch, MD, a neurosurgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, has been testing the effectiveness of a personalized vaccine in treating patients whose GBM has returned (recurred).

Glioblastoma multiforme is treated first with surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. But GBM always comes back, according to Dr. Bloch. And when it does, the life expectancy is generally only three to six months.

One medication — Avastin (bevacizumab) — is approved to treat recurrent GBM and has been shown to offer patients a median survival of eight to 11 months.

For this phase ll trial, the researchers enrolled 41 patients with recurrent GBM between 2007 and 2011.

A vaccine known as Heat Shock Peptide Protein Complex-96 (HSPPC-96) was engineered for each participant using tissue from the patient’s brain tumor that had been surgically removed.

The vaccine works by triggering the body’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells that linger following surgery.

Patients received an average of six HSPPC-96 vaccine doses, starting roughly four weeks after their surgery to remove the recurrent tumor.

Six months after starting the vaccine, 90.2 percent of the patients were still alive, and nearly a third (30 percent) were still alive after a year.

The median overall survival for all patients receiving the vaccine was 42.6 weeks.

No treatment-related deaths occurred.

“The HSPPC-96 vaccine is safe and warrants further study of efficacy for the treatment of recurrent GBM,” Dr. Bloch and team concluded.

Northwestern Medicine is conducting a randomized phase ll trial to investigate the safety and effectiveness of combining the HSPPC-96 vaccine with Avastin.

This study was published in the December issue of Neuro-Oncology.

This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute Special Program Of Research Excellence (SPORE), American Brain Tumor Association, National Brain Tumor Society and the Accelerated Brain Cancer Cure, Inc.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
December 19, 2013