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Brain Tumor Vaccine Shows Promise in Early Trials
Date:4/11/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 11 (HealthDay News) -- A vaccine that jumpstarts the immune system is showing promise in keeping a deadly type of cancerous brain tumor at bay.

Glioblastoma, or malignant glioma, is the most common type of cancerous brain tumor. It's also deadly -- most people die about 12 to 14 months after diagnosis, said Dr. Isaac Yang, a neurosurgeon at University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of a study on the vaccine.

Sen. Ted Kennedy died from a glioblastoma in 2009.

In the clinical trials, researchers created individualized vaccines for 34 patients using brain tumor tissue and the patient's own dendritic cells, which are part of the immune system.

When joined together in a vaccine, introducing the tumor cells to the dendritic cells "trains" the immune system to recognize cancer cells and mount an attack, the researchers said.

About 91 percent of patients who received the vaccine were alive after one year. Fifty-five percent were alive after two years, while 44 percent survived to three years or longer.

Three patients are still alive after five years, Yang said.

"What we're trying to do is to train the immune system like a hunting dog," Yang said. "A hunting dog is given something to sniff. What the vaccine does is give the immune system the right 'scent' so that it recognizes the brain cancer and goes and kills it."

The results of the Phase 1 clinical trial were to be reported Monday at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons annual meeting in Denver.

The researchers are currently wrapping up Phase 2 clinical trials. The next step is a Phase 3, multi-center trial, which is currently enrolling patients, Yang said.

There's growing interest in using individualized vaccines to treat certain cancers, said William Chambers, director of clinical cancer research and immunology for the American Cancer Soc
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