New immune drug for brain cancer shows early promise

In collaboration with the Press Association

Preliminary research into a new, personalised treatment for glioma, an aggressive brain cancer, has shown promising results, according to the scientists running the trial.

The 'Oncophage' treatment, tested by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco, in the US, involves taking a sample of a patient's tumour and isolating a protein called gp96 from it.

This protein is then broken down and injected back into the patient's body. The effect of this is to stimulate the patient's immune system to attack the tumour itself.

The trial looked at two groups of six patients who received different doses of the treatment. The initial results showed improved survival and minimal side-effects.

Tests on the patients' immune systems showed they were producing a response to their tumour. Full results are expected in 2007, and if these show the same promise, a larger trial is planned.

"Nearly 3,500 people die from brain and nervous system cancer in the UK every year," said Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK.

"Treatments like this that harness the power of the immune system to fight cancer are potentially very powerful, and are being investigated by cancer researchers around the world.

"There have been several positive results from immunotherapy trials recently, so it's an exciting time to be involved in this area of research.

"This small but promising study suggests that Oncophage could be used to treat cancer, but there is still much more to be done before we know what potential it may hold as a treatment."

Of the six patients involved in the study, all survived beyond the 14.6 months that is the typical survival time following diagnosis.

The study was presented at the US Society of Neuro-Oncology's 11th Annual Scientific Meeting.