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New vaccine for brain cancer

For 18 years, Keith Black, M.D., from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has been searching for an effective treatment for brain cancer. While his research moves forward, he’s helping patients live longer along the way.// Latest research involves an effective brain tumor vaccine.

Dr. Black says brain tumors try to hide proteins on the tumor cell surface that the immune system could use to recognize the tumor. By hiding these cells, brain tumors become difficult to eradicate. The first step of research strips these “hidden” proteins from tumor cells and then cultures them from a piece of a patient’s tumor that’s removed with surgery. Next, come dendritic cells. Dendritic cells make up a very small percentage of the white blood cells, but they are the most efficient cells for presenting foreign proteins to the immune system. After isolating the dendritic cells, researchers say, they essentially have developed a technique to put these proteins [that the tumor tries to “hide”] directly on these [dendritic cells] and allow these cells to present these back to the proteins to the immune system by giving these cells back under the skin just as a shot, like a vaccine.

Researchers say the killer immune cells then recognize it and divide into millions of powerful T-cells. Now, when they see the tumor with this protein on the surface, they will try to attack it and kill the tumor cell.

It sounds confusing, but it works. By giving this vaccine, patients are surviving longer. Early research suggests, when combined with chemotherapy, the vaccine increases the two-year survival of patients with grade IV glioblastomas -- the deadliest type of brain cancer -- from 5 percent to nearly 40 percent.

However specialist’s newest endeavor is to inject the vaccine directly into the tumor of patients whose cancer has recurred. In the first patient vaccinated this way, the tumor appears to be at least stabilizing. Ultimately, researchers say
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