Scientists have revealed a new cancer vaccine that could prolong the life of patients with aggressive glioblastoma brain tumors. This ground-breaking medical discovery offer “fresh hope” to millions of people battling brain cancers worldwide.
The science and other stuff to know
Glioblastoma is an aggressive form of brain cancer that’s always fatal in adults. It has an average survival time of 12 to 18 months, and only five percent of patients live for more than five years after diagnosis. Thankfully, a new vaccine called DCVax-L could double the five-year survival rate for patients battling the deadly brain tumor, according to study findings published in the Journal of American Medical Association Oncology (JAMA).
The vaccine has been developed by biotech company Northwest Biotherapeutics and was trialed at King’s College Hospital, among other centers.
According to researchers, the vaccine is designed to harness the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. It’s created for each patient individually by isolating specific immune cells, known as dendritic cells, from their blood. The dendritic cells are then primed with biomarkers from the patient’s own tumor. Once they are injected back into the patient, they teach the rest of the immune system to recognize and attack brain tumor cells.
The DCVax-L vaccine was trialed for eight years and the trial involved over 300 patients from the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Germany, all diagnosed with glioblastoma.
In the trial, newly diagnosed patients who received the vaccine survived for 19.3 months on average, compared with 16.5 months for those in placebo treatment. Patients with recurrent glioblastoma who received DCVax-L, on the other hand, lived for 13.2 months on average. This compared to just 7.8 months for those who didn’t get the vaccine.
Overall, 13 percent of all trial participants treated with DCVax lived for more than five years after diagnosis. For patients who didn’t receive the vaccine, the average survival rate was just 5.7 percent.
The DCVax-L vaccine offers a promising treatment for aggressive brain tumors.
“The final results of this [study] offer fresh hope to patients battling with glioblastoma,” Keyoumars Ashkan, professor of neurosurgery at King’s College Hospital and European chief investigator of the clinical trial, said in a press statement.
“The vaccine was shown to prolong life, interestingly in patients traditionally considered to have a poorer prognosis,” Ashkan added. “For example, we see clear benefits in the older patient groups as well as in those patients in whom radical surgery was not possible for technical or other reasons.”
Henry Stennett, from Cancer Research U.K. and who wasn’t involved in the study, said of the vaccine: “What’s particularly exciting is that [the vaccine] can improve outcomes for people who don’t usually respond well to therapy. While it still needs to pass stringent regulatory approval, it could be a big step forwards in beating this type of brain tumor.”
The study team is planning to experiment with the vaccine in other types of brain tumors as well as combine it with other immunotherapy drugs. Just recently, a miraculous breast cancer vaccine passed human trials.
If approved, the DCVax-L vaccine would be the first treatment in 17 years for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, according to researchers. It would also be the first treatment in 27 years to extend the survival rate in recurrent glioblastoma.