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New immunotherapy for malignant brain tumors
Date:11/25/2013

This news release is available in German.

Animal experiments show that it is relatively easy to treat cancer in the early stages. However, it is far more difficult to successfully treat advanced cancer. Treatment of brain tumors is particularly challenging because regulatory T-cells accumulate in brain tumors and suppress an immune attack.

In several steps using a new strategy and a novel drug, Burkhard Becher's team from the Institute of Experimental Immunology at the University of Zurich has now succeeded in doing exactly this in the case of glioblastoma, one of the most dangerous brain tumors. First step, they stimulated the body's own immune system in such a way that it recognised and then killed the brain tumor cells even in advanced stages of the disease.

The initial objective of their new study was to break through the tumor's protective shield. "We wanted to establish whether we can actually elicit an immune response to a tumor growing within the brain", explains Burkhard Becher. To this end, the team used the immune messenger substance, Interleukin-12. When Interleukin-12 is produced in the tumor, immune cells are stimulated locally in such a manner that the tumor is attacked and rejected. Once this procedure had worked well in the early stages of the tumor, the researchers waited in the next stage until the tumor was very large and the life expectancy of the untreated test animals was less than three weeks. "We only began treatment when it was, in fact, already too late", says the first author of the study Johannes vom Berg. The success rate was low, Berg adds. "We then injected biopharmaceutical Interleukin-12 into the large brain tumor. This did induce an immune response but only led to tumor rejection in one-quarter of the animals."

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Contact: Burkhard Becher, Ph.D.
becher@immunology.uzh.ch
41-446-353-703
University of Zurich
Source:Eurekalert

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