By Admin at 12 Jan 2017, 15:07 PM
Recently cited in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, and highlighted in the Associated Press, TIME and other major news sources, a Gateway-funded clinical trial is making big news for breakthrough success in brain cancer.
For the first time, researchers have successfully used a form of immunotherapy, which harnesses a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, to treat an aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma.
While immunotherapies are growing increasingly popular for treatment of blood cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemia, solid tumors have proven more difficult to target. However, researchers from the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute and Medical Center in Los Angeles, California revealed chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered T cell therapy led to regression of glioblastoma.
The trial involves nine patients with glioblastoma, many of whom are having positive results from the therapy. One 50-year-old man, in particular, had already been treated with surgery, radiation and anti-tumor drug therapies, but the tumor continued to grow and spread.
The researchers used the man’s own immune cells and engineered them to express proteins to destroy glioblastoma cells. After surgery to remove the majority of the brain tumor, the modified cells (chimeric antigen receptor T cells, or CAR T cells) were injected into the area six times.
This led the primary tumor to stop growing. In addition, the man received 10 more injections of CAR T cells into the brain’s ventricles in order to stop the growth of smaller tumors — a first-of-its kind treatment because it carries a risk of severe (and possibly deadly) inflammation. No such side effects were noted in the study, however, and the smaller tumors shrank after four months and had virtually disappeared by six months.
Without the experimental immunotherapy treatment, doctors expected the man to only survive for a few weeks, however the cancer stopped growing for 7.5 months following the start of the CAR T therapy. Researchers hope to use the study results to target immunotherapy to both the tumor site and the ventricular space in the brain to help stop cancer spread.
The CAR T therapy is a major advancement in the treatment of glioblastoma, which is currently considered to be incurable. Study author Dr. Behnam Badie told TIME:
“If we can do the same for other patients, that would be an amazing accomplishment that many decades of work and research on glioblastoma have never done.”
The man’s tumor did start growing again after nearly eight months, with less of the protein the CAR T cells were originally designed to target. The researchers intend to create immune cells with different tumor-targeting proteins that are tailored to each patient’s cancer. It’s likely that multiple types of modified immune cells may be necessary to control tumor growth over a longer period.
Even with aggressive therapies, including surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, most patients with recurrent glioblastoma (GBM) survive less than two years, making it imperative to identify superior treatments. In a statement to Gateway, Dr Badie added:
“Thanks to the support from Gateway, we have been able to provide an important proof-of-principle for the therapeutic potential of this promising T cell therapy. Our results thus far show a potential breakthrough treatment that may have a remarkable impact on patients with malignant brain tumors.”