Immunotherapy begins to bear fruit

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new vaccine could "significantly" extend the life expectancy of patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most dangerous form of brain tumour, researchers have claimed.

The median survival rates for untreated patients diagnosed with GMB is just four months, said researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre.

This is extended to 14 months with chemotherapy, but the vaccine has so far extended the lives of a 23-strong research group to 19 months, with only four deaths , said researcher Dr Amy Heimberger.

The vaccine "prompts" the body's immune system into attacking a protein found on many GMB tumours. It can act as both a preventative and an ongoing therapy.

"Results like this are exciting - they show that the idea of using the body's immune system to help beat cancer has the potential to make a real difference to patients in the future," said Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK.

"But much of the work is still at an early stage. This trial was very small, and larger studies need to be done before the researchers can be sure that the vaccine is safe and effective."

The method differs from traditional attempts to create vaccines, which involved taking cells from each patient, altering them in a laboratory and then delivering them to the body.

In comparison, the new vaccine is standardised and relatively simple to produce on a large scale.

"We can't say this vaccine is better than chemotherapy because we haven't tested the two treatments head-to-head yet," said Dr Heimberger.

"However, so far, results have exceeded the expectations we had for this vaccine," she added.

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and were developed in association with Duke University.

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