Landmark brain cancer vaccine passes first phase of human trials

Landmark brain cancer vaccine ...
A new vaccine is designed to help train immune cells to target a mutation unique to brain tumors
A new vaccine is designed to help train immune cells to target a mutation unique to brain tumors
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A new vaccine is designed to help train immune cells to target a mutation unique to brain tumors
A new vaccine is designed to help train immune cells to target a mutation unique to brain tumors

A new article published in the journal Nature is reporting promising results from a landmark Phase 1 human trial testing a novel vaccine designed to help a patient's immune system better target brain tumors. The data suggests the experimental vaccine is safe and stimulates a significant immune response that slows tumor progression. A larger Phase 2 trial is currently being planned.

Diffuse gliomas are a particularly difficult kind of brain cancer to treat. They can spread across the brain making it difficult to easily eliminate them through traditional surgery, but these tumors do often share a common feature – over 70 percent of low-grade gliomas have a single gene mutation affecting an enzyme called isocitrate dehydrogenase 1 (IDH1).

This IDH1 mutation is unique to gliomas and leads to the creation of novel proteins called neo-epitopes. Michael Platten, from the German Cancer Research Center, has been working for years to create a vaccine that helps a patient’s immune system learn to target these IDH1 mutated cells.

"Our idea was to support patients' immune systems and to use a vaccine as a targeted way of alerting it to the tumor-specific neo-epitope," says Platten.

In 2015, after years of development and animal testing, the researchers finally began a human trial for their novel IDH1 vaccine. The first step was to investigate how safe the vaccine was in human subjects and explore what kind of immune response it triggered.

Around 33 patients with a newly diagnosed IDH1 glioma were recruited. The recently published results of that Phase 1 trial reveal the experimental vaccine is safe with no serious side effects noted.

Looking at immune responses the researchers found 93 percent of patients displayed an effective response to the vaccine. Immune T cells specifically targeting the IDH1 mutation were detected in those responsive patients.

Patients with large numbers of circulating T cells in their bloodstream also showed tumor pseudoprogression, a process where a tumor grows in size due to invading immune cells causing swelling. At the three-year follow-up point the cohort’s survival rate was 84 percent. No tumor growth was seen in 82 percent of patients displaying strong immunogenic responses to the vaccine after three years.

Platten is cautious about overstating the results from this phase 1 trial, saying no further efficacy conclusions can be made without larger trials and a control group. He does note a further phase 1 trial is already underway combining the experimental vaccine with checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy, which is known to enhance immune system activity. The hope is the combination treatment will amplify immune responses.

The new research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: German Cancer Research Center

This article reminds me of an old TV crime documentary I saw many years ago. It was a story of how a con man helped create the bug extermination company Terminex. The con man had an incurable brain tumor. Figuring he's going to die soon, and has nothing to lose, he sets up an elaborate sting with the Mob, and gets them to give him a pile of cash, to invest in his friend's Jose's invention, a glue and pesticide mixture gel, which Termenex now spreads around buildings to repel cockroaches, etc. Instead, he gives all the cash to his ex-wife. Then, a miracle happens, and his incurable brain tumor disappears! He's going to live! At least until the Mob kills him for stealing their money! This story has a happy ending. The con man and his ex reconcile, and run away to Mexico with the Mob money to live happily ever after. And, a big corporate angel hears about Jose's invention, and pays off the debt to the mob, and helps Jose make Terminex the big bug extermination company it is today. But, why did his brain tumor vanish? Well, the only unusual thing the con man encountered was that glue and pesticide gel, which he rubbed between his thumb and forefinger. A tiny amount of this toxic substance was absorbed by his skin, and somehow taught his immune system to finally recognize and destroy his brain tumor. It may be that many kinds of toxic substances are 'Immune System Triggers', which, when given to rare cancer type patients in very tiny dosages, can stimulate their immune systems to eliminate their cancers. Anyway, it might help to try this Terminex thing, if you got an incurable brain tumor!
I am grateful to read this article and oh the hope it fills me with, yet true selfish sadness as my father, my daddy, lost his fight with this very thing on December 10th, 2020. So just over a few short months ago. The toll that it wreaked on him and us, his family and loved ones is genuine and far reaching. It was a year and a couple months of steady decline. They said it is one of the worst forms of cancer to have and I can't argue with that. At least maybe fewer families will know this loss. Thank you scientists.