Johns Hopkins researchers say they have found a specific protein in nearly 100 percent of high-grade meningiomas -- the most common form of brain tumor -- suggesting a new target for therapies for a cancer that does not respond to current chemotherapy.
Importantly, the investigators say, the protein -- NY-ESO-1 -- is already at the center of a clinical trial underway at the National Cancer Institute. That trial is designed to activate the immune systems of patients with other types of tumors that express the protein, training the body to attack the cancer and eradicate it.
"Typically there is a lag time before a laboratory finding like this leads to a clear path forward to help patients. But in this case, since there is already a clinical trial underway, we have a chance of helping people sooner rather than later," says Gregory J. Riggins, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the senior author of the study published online in the journal Cancer Immunology Research.
In the NCI trial, NY-ESO-1 is found in a much smaller percentage of tumors than Riggins and his team found in high-grade meningioma, suggesting that for the brain cancer, the target would be potentially more significant.
Most low-grade meningiomas located in easy-to-reach locations can be treated successfully with surgery and radiation. But more atypical, higher-grade tumors are much more difficult to eradicate and are deadlier.
Riggins and his colleagues, including Gilson S. Baia, Ph.D., and Otavia L. Caballero, M.D., Ph.D., set out to find cancer antigens in meningioma. Cancer antigens are proteins expressed in tumors but not in healthy cells, making them good targets for chemical or immune system attack. They looked specifically at 37 cancer/testis (CT) genes, which are not found in normal cells in the body except in germ cells and cells cordoned off in the testicles or, in some cases,
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Johns Hopkins Medicine