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Promising results in a glioblastoma vaccine clinical trial

Glioblastoma cells from beneath a microscope.

A group of US researchers have presented promising results of a brain cancer clinical trial at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting last week. The trial investigated a newly developed vaccine to combat glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. It concluded that patients on the trial had significantly increased overall survival upon receiving the vaccine. These results provide the foundations for future studies and clinical trials investigating this therapy as a possible treatment for glioblastoma.

The vaccine, called IGV-001, is a type of experimental immunotherapy, which aims to activate the body’s immune system to fight a tumour. It is created using a patient’s own tumour cells, taken from their brain tumour at the time of surgery. These tumour cells are treated with a compound that targets IGF-R1 - a receptor known to drive tumour growth - and irradiated, resulting in a chamber. This chamber is then implanted under the patient’s abdomen, as a vaccine. 

Dr Craig Hooper, an immunologist at Jefferson Health, says that the combined effects of the IGF-R1 target and irradiation results in the release of antigens from the camber. These antigens, he says, “diffuse out of the chamber into the patient’s body and activate the immune system against brain tumour cells”.  This chamber is the result of over 15 years of lab research, conducted by Dr Hooper and Dr David Andrews, Professor of Neurosurgery at Jefferson Health.

In the trial, 33 patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma received the experimental vaccine at various doses. The researchers determined that there were no adverse side effects as a result of the therapy over the course of the trial, which finished in 2018. The overall survival of these patients was compared to a historical study group of 35 patients, who were treated with standard traditional therapies.

It was concluded that progression-free survival, which is the time spent without the disease recurring, was increased in the treatment group. Overall survival also increased, with patients on the highest dose of the vaccine surviving for an average of 21.9 months, compared to 14.6 months on standard therapy. 

“The response we see in some patients is very encouraging”, says Dr Andrews. Notably however, these are still early days. This clinical trial was a ‘phase 1’, and therapeutics are required to advance through to phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials before a therapy can be submitted for approval by the Food and Drug Administration. “We look forward to initiating a phase II trial later this year to confirm these phase 1b results”, says Dr Andrews. 

You can read the full press release here.

Read about Cure Brain Cancer Foundation-funded research results, announced at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting here

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