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Could There Soon be a Vaccine Against Brain Cancer?

The answer is YES!  There is exciting news on the horizon for cancer patients.  Dr. Jeffrey N. Bruce from the Brain Tumor Center has announced the start of Phase 2 Clinical Trials for a new vaccine to be used in the battle against brain tumors, specifically high-grade gliomas.  Gliomas are the most common type of brain tumor and good results with the vaccine would have wide therapeutic value.

The vaccine is called Oncophage® and it was named the best therapeutic vaccine by the World Vaccine Congress in April of last year.  It is a unique cancer treatment in that it is made from material taken from the patient’s own tumor.  It is then used to stimulate their immune system to specifically go after cancer cells and leave their healthy cells alone.

This new study follows the successful completion of the Phase 1 Trial started by Andrew T. Parsa, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where the first trial was completed.  He had this to say:

We are encouraged by the preliminary results generated by (the) Phase One study, which treated the most challenging patients with at least one recurrence.  In this patient population, treatment with Oncophage extended overall medical survival to approximately 10.5 months, with a favorable side effect profile.
Dr. Andrew Parsa

Dr. Bruce has joined Dr. Parsa’s efforts by conducting phase 2 trials here at the Department of Neurosurgery.  This is not their first time working together, as Dr. Parsa completed his residency here at Columbia and was part of the Bartoli Brain Tumor Laboratory with Dr. Bruce.  About the trials being carried out at his center Dr. Bruce said, “The expansion of the Phase 2 clinical trial will enable us to learn more quickly about the potential of brain tumor vaccines in this setting,”  He is excited about this drug’s potential.

Dr. Bruce is currently recruiting patients with high-grade gliomas for this trial and some have already received the vaccine.  A glioma is a type of tumor that derives from glial cells in the brain or spine.  Glial cells make up some of the supporting structure in the brain and protect the neurons.

Doctors grade gliomas as High or Low.  When a glioma is Low-Grade, it means it is benign (not cancerous).  A High-Grade glioma is malignant which means that it is cancerous and can spread.  These tumors need to be removed, but depending on their location and rate of growth, it may be difficult to get all of the cancer.  For this reason, High-Grade gliomas are often also treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

This vaccine could be an incredible boon for those with cancer.  Engaging the patients own immune system to fight the cancer on a cellular level creates highly specific targeting with less damage to surrounding tissue than conventional treatments.  That means, potentially, that not only will more people survive, but they will survive with a better quality of life.

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