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Brain Cancer Vaccine's Immune Response Key to Outcomes

Tumor-altering shot, already in trials, lengthens survival, study finds

TUESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- An in-trial dendritic cell vaccine that fights malignant brain tumors called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) may help boost a patient's immunity response and improve the outcome, a new report says.

An article in the July 15 issue of Cancer Research says this would mark the first time a tumor-altering therapeutic intervention would have shown such promise.

"Fifty-three percent of patients in our study exhibited a significant vaccine-enhanced immune response. Compared to non-responders or those with limited responses, the vaccine responders had significantly longer times to tumor progression and longer survival," one the article's authors, Cedars-Sinai's Department of Neurosurgery Chairman Dr. Keith L. Black, said in a news release issued by the Los Angeles-based medical center.

The study also supports past findings that the dendritic cell vaccination can work well with chemotherapy to improve treatment. The researchers reported that the time to tumor progression greatly increased when chemotherapy followed vaccination, compared to vaccination alone.

"No other vaccine trial in cancer patients has shown the kind of progressive correlation between immune responses and clinical outcomes that we found," the article's first and corresponding author, Christopher J. Wheeler, a research scientist at the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, said in the same news release.

These results, centered on 32 patients enrolled in a Phase II clinical trial, included 17 patients having significant positive response after three vaccinations, while 15 showed no such responsiveness. Average time to tumor progression (based on when tumor volume increased by about 25 percent on MRI scans) was 308 days among responders, compared to 167 days for non-responders.

The average length of survival was about 21 months among responders, about 14 months for non-responders. Forty-one percent of vaccine responders survived at least two years, though, compared with only 7 percent of non-responders.

All those in the trial showed a longer time to progression and longer time of survival, on average, than patients undergoing standard treatment without vaccination.

More information

The Brain Tumor Society has more about brain cancer.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, news release, July 15, 2008

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