Experimental Brain Cancer Treatment Results In Triumph

Brain Cancer

Using the Immune system to fight cancer has quickly lead doctors to try a very similar strategy for battling tumors.  The majority of this strategy’s success has come from blood cancers like leukemias and lymphomas.  This strategy is called Immunotherapy and it still needs to prove itself with tumors like brain, breast prostate, lung and colon cancers.

        A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers led by Dr. Behnam Badie from City Of Hope Beckman Research Institute and Medical Center say the exact same Immunotherapy that is highly effective with blood cancers helped a patient with severe stage brain cancer.

        A  50-year-old man had a aggressive type of brain tumor called glioblastoma and had already been treated with radiation, anti-tumor drugs and surgeries.  Even with all these treatments his cancer had returned worse than before and it had spread to his spinal cord and other places in his brain it had not been before.

Baddie and his team had removed immune cells from him and then engineered them to express proteins that would recognize and destroy glioblastoma tumor cells, when reimplanted.  Post surgery to remove the vast  amount of brain tumor, Badie and his colleagues directly injected the site with the modified immune cells, which are called chimeric antigen receptor T cells, or CAR T cells, six times and the tumor that was left suddenly stopped growing.

        Other small growths in the brain continued to grow in the wake of the treatment but these were combated with 10 more doses of CAR T cells injected to the new cavities, which are called ventricles.  This is the first time that immune cells have been injected into these brain regions since anything being introduced into the ventricles could cause dangerous and deadly inflammations.  The man did not develop any of these however and after four months these tumors started to shrink.   By the six month mark these tumors were completely gone.

Dr. Behnam Badie says if the patient had not received CAR T therapy he would most likely have lived a few more weeks after his cancer recurred.  Instead the patient’s cancer did not grow or recur until almost eight months. Dr. Behnam Badie who lost his own father to glioblastoma a decade ago  says, “If we can do the same for other patients, that would be an amazing accomplishment that many decades of work and research on glioblastoma have never done”.

The patient is one of nine in a trial and at this point in the study the others participating have had very similar results and experiences with the therapy.  Based on this man’s personal experience,  his team is hoping to now be able to inject not only the site of tumor but as well as ventricular space in the brain, since that may help manage the Spread of cancer.

It also becomes more apparent that more than a single type of modified immune cells may have to be enlisted.  The tumors in the first patient remained under control for roughly eight months, but the cancer returned in new parts of the brain anyway. Bradie says it’s not obvious why but his analysis showed that these tumors did not contain a lot of the protein targeted by the CAR T cells that were injected into the patient.  He claims it is also possible that the CAR T cells injected were destroyed most of the cancer cells expressing the original protein, so other proteins began to procreate and survive.

Badie hopes to use this breakthrough and introduce immune cells with different tumor-targeting proteins. Eventually, these proteins would be catered to be case specific for each patient’s cancer.  These results are some of the first encouraging sign that the immunotherapy route of medicine is helping more people with blood cancer and might also be proficient for people with solid tumors like brain cancers.