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New, Personalized Therapy for Treatment of Deadly Brain Cancer Found to Increase Median Life Expectancy by Nearly 40%



Julian K. Wu, MDFor years, glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, has frustrated scientists and physicians. But while there is no known cure for this deadly disease, new, cutting-edge research may provide a life-prolonging option for glioblastoma patients and their families.

A phase III clinical trial has shown that the DCVax®-L personalized cancer vaccine—individually created from the patient’s own immune cells—extends median survival, in combination with standard therapy (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment), for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients to more than 22 months, a full six months longer than the median survival with standard therapy alone.

The results of the study, “Association of Autologous Tumor Lysate-Loaded Dendritic Cell Vaccination with Extension of Survival Among Patients with Newly Diagnosed and Recurrent Glioblastoma,” were published in JAMA Oncology on November 17, 2022.

“This is the first time in nearly 20 years that a phase III trial of a systemic treatment has shown extended survival for glioblastoma patients,” said study co-author Julian K. Wu, MD, Associate Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and Chief of Neurosurgical Oncology at Tufts Medical Center, and the Principal Investigator for the Tufts MC trial site. “While there is still much work to do, this is a significant step forward in the fight against this terrible disease.”

The vaccine is developed following brain surgery to remove the patient’s tumor. Tumor cell samples are then then processed and the tumor antigens are exposed to the patient’s dendritic cells, a type of immune cells obtained directly from the patient, through a process called plasmaphoresis. This process sensitizes the dendritic cells to the tumor antigens, so when the cells are injected back into the patient, they prime the immune system to better recognize and more effectively and efficiently attack the tumor cells in the brain.

“For glioblastoma patients and their families, every additional day is precious,” said Dr. Wu. “So to be able to offer an option shown to be safe and effective that could extend life by half a year, or more in some cases, is both incredibly satisfying to patients and extremely gratifying to clinicians.”

Now that the results of the phase III trial have been published, Dr. Wu is hopeful that an FDA approval for the vaccine will follow, so glioblastoma patients will have this therapy available as a potential treatment option.