About 17,000 patients are diagnosed with GBM annually and only 2 percent survive longer than five years, even with treatment. GBM’s typically occur in men and women between the ages of 50 and 70 years. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are among the standard treatment options. While side effects from standard therapies can be debilitating, vaccinated patients on this study reported only minimal side effects.
Cancer vaccines are a relatively new approach to treating cancer. The cancer vaccine concept is similar to a vaccine for diseases like measles or mumps; an injection in the arm prompts the body to produce an immune response that helps it to fight off a particular pathogen, or harmful substance – like cancer. If the immune response is successful, the tumor would shrink and survival extended and lives saved.
Dr. Andrew Parsa, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon from University of Southern California San Francisco (UCSF) lead the research study and recently announced that early results indicate an almost 50 percent improvement in survival for patients with GBM, the same type of brain cancer that killed Senator Edward Kennedy. The vaccine, said Parsa, could be a “total game-changer.”
The vaccine is made from the patient’s own tumor cells and is known as HSPPC-96. The Phase 2 multicenter trial looked at 40 patients who had prior surgery to remove as much of their brain tumor as possible and then experienced a recurrence, or re-growth, of their tumor. Vaccinated patients saw an increased average length of survival to 48 weeks, as compared to an average survival time of 33 weeks in patients who were not vaccinated. At six months 93 percent of the vaccinated patients were alive as compared to 68 percent of patients who opted for other treatments.
“These results are provocative,” said Dr. Parsa, MD, PhD. “They suggest that doctors may be able to extend survival even longer by combining the vaccine with other drugs that enhance this immune response.”
Results of this study were presented at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) meeting in Miami, Florida and results are considered to be preliminary until they are studied further in a randomized clinical trial and the results published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. #Braincancerawareness
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