Research: Immunotherapy can help fight aggressive brain cancer

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Research: Immunotherapy can help fight aggressive brain cancer

Researchers may have discovered a way to enlist immunotherapy in the fight against aggressive glioblastoma.

Researchers may have discovered a way to enlist immunotherapy in the fight against glioblastoma, the aggressive brain cancer that has resisted uses of the breakthrough treatment pioneered by Houston scientist Jim Allison.

In a small study posted online Monday, patients treated before surgery with one of the drugs that unleash a brake that reins in the immune system lived nearly twice as long as the average life expectancy for those with glioblastoma that has returned after initial treatment. Previous research involved giving the drugs after surgery.

“This is an important first step toward using immunotherapy to benefit patients,” said Robert Prins, the study’s senior author and a tumor immunologist at UCLA, which led the multi-institutional, randomized study.

Prins said the next step will be to design better studies using the new approach, specifically deploying a combination of immunotherapies instead of just one drug.

Some of the patients were enrolled at MD Anderson Cancer Center, home of Allison, who won a Nobel Prize last fall for his identification of the first immune system brake and dogged efforts to turn the finding into treatment for cancer. The drugs, known as checkpoint inhibitors, have produced cures in a subset of patients with particularly deadly forms of the disease, such as lung cancer and melanoma. Former President Jimmy Carter ix their most high-profile beneficiary.

But the treatment, including drugs used in combination, had shown no benefit in patients with glioblastoma, the cancer that killed Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, U.S. Senator John McCain and, most recently, former MD Anderson President Dr. John Mendelsohn.

Read on: Research: Immunotherapy can help fight aggressive brain cancer

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