Brain Cancer: Targeted by Immunotherapy


CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive form of brain tumor. More than 14,000 people will be diagnosed with one this year and once diagnosed, most people will not live more than two years. But despite their aggressive nature, treatments have basically remained the same since 2005. Now, researchers are looking at ways to make a person’s own body attack the tumor. Brain cancer

Fran Noonan’s fingers going numb were one of the first signs something was wrong with. Not long after, she was diagnosed with a glioblastoma.

“They gave me anywhere from six months to 14 months to live,” she recalls.

The standard of care for these types of brain tumors hasn’t changed in almost 20 years — odds of long-term survival are slim.

Neurosurgical Oncologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C., Dominique Higgins, MD, PhD explains, “It’s about a hundred percent recurrence rate and it usually occurs around the nine-month mark.“

Now, a team of researchers is hoping to turn the patient’s own immune system against the tumors.

“It’s an interesting approach to, essentially, a personalized tumor vaccine,” Dr. Higgins adds.

Patients undergo brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Then, scientists take tumor cells, kill them, and put them in special chambers that contain nucleotides that help to turn on an immune response. Doctors then insert the dime-sized chambers just under the skin in the abdomen.

“And so, they’re basically like little traps for the irradiated tumor cells that are stimulating an immune response,” further explains.

Two days later, the chambers are removed.

Dr. Higgins says, “But now, the immune cells in the body know what a tumor looks like and they can go on and attack it in the brain.”

The phase two clinical trial is still enrolling patients with newly diagnosed glioblastomas. Researchers hope that this technique will not only be used to battle glioblastomas, but other cancers, in particular, ovarian cancer.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Matt Goldschmidt, Videographer & Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #5360

BACKGROUND: Brain cancer refers to the abnormal growth of cells within the brain or its surrounding structures. It can originate from brain tissue itself (primary brain cancer) or spread to the brain from other parts of the body (metastatic or secondary brain cancer). Brain cancer encompasses a diverse group of tumors with varying characteristics, behaviors, and treatment approaches. Brain tumors can be classified based on their location within the brain, cell type, and behavior. Some common types of primary brain tumors include: gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, and medulloblastomas. Over 95,000 people will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year, and 24 percent of those tumors will be cancerous.


DIAGNOSING: The symptoms of brain cancer can vary depending on the location, size, and growth rate of the tumor. Common symptoms may include: headaches that worsen over time, seizures, cognitive changes, such as memory loss or difficulty concentrating, weakness or numbness in the limbs, changes in vision, hearing, or speech, balance and coordination problems, and/or anxiety and depression. Diagnosis of brain cancer typically involves a combination of imaging studies (such as MRI or CT scans), neurological examinations, and sometimes a biopsy to analyze tumor tissue under a microscope. Genetic testing may also be performed to identify specific mutations or biomarkers that can guide treatment decisions.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Researchers at the University of North Carolina are looking at immunotherapy to potentially target and kill brain cancer in patients. “Well over a dozen labs in the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center explore the diagnosis and novel treatment of brain tumors. Immunotherapy and cellular therapy are actively being investigated both in the laboratory setting and clinical trials. There is particular institutional expertise in genetic profiling of brain tumors, the study of IDH1, IDH1’s role in brain tumors and advanced imaging of brain tumors within the Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC).”



Kendall Daniels

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