Immunotherapy can be effective in treating people with recurrent glioblastoma

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Immunotherapy can be effective in treating people with recurrent glioblastoma

A UCLA-led study suggests that for people with recurrent glioblastoma, administering an immunotherapy drug before surgery is more effective than using the drug afterward.

A UCLA-led study suggests that for people with recurrent glioblastoma, administering an immunotherapy drug before surgery is more effective than using the drug afterward.

In recent years, immunotherapy drugs, which harness the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells, have been shown to be helpful in treating people with advanced or metastatic cancer. But the drugs have yet to show any benefit in helping people with glioblastoma, an aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer. On average, most people with recurrent glioblastoma live for just six to nine months.

The study, published today in Nature Medicine, was led by Robert Prins, a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, a professor of neuro-oncology at the Geffen School of Medicine. Both are scientists at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. It shows for the first time that pembrolizumab, an immune checkpoint inhibitor drug that is marketed under the brand name Keytruda, can be effective in treating people with recurrent glioblastoma.

In the study, people treated with the drug prior to surgery lived nearly twice as long after surgery as the average life expectancy for people with the disease.

Pembrolizumab is an antibody that works by blocking a checkpoint protein called PD-1, which stops T cells from attacking cancer cells. Cancer cells often use PD-1 to keep T cells at bay. But inhibiting the engagement of the protein with a checkpoint inhibitor drug like pembrolizumab enables the immune system to better attack the cancer.

“The results are very encouraging,” said Prins, the study’s senior author. “This is the first hint that immunotherapy can have a clinical benefit for patients with malignant brain tumors —and help prevent future recurrences.”

The trial, which took place at seven medical centers throughout the U.S., evaluated 35 people with recurrent and surgically resectable glioblastoma — meaning the tumors could be removed by surgery. Of them, 16 received pembrolizumab before their surgeries and 19 received the drug afterward.

Read on: Immunotherapy can be effective in treating people with recurrent glioblastoma

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