Team tests brain cancer vaccine

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A medical team believes it's developed an effective vaccine against the most common type of brain cancer, and is about to try it out on human subjects.

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of Pittsburgh plansto give the vaccine to 18 patients with early stage low-grade gliomas.

It is designed to target several of the glioma-associated antigens or molecules recognized by the immune system as foreign.

"This study is looking at a very new form of treatment called a preventative brain tumor vaccine. The idea is to treat the low-grade glioma and to prevent it from growing back," said radiation oncologist Edward Shaw.

"In this early phase study, we are looking to see whether the patient develops an immune response against this kind of brain tumor, a necessary step for the vaccine to work."

The vaccine will be given to adult patients who have had surgery for the removal of a low-grade brain tumor. They'll be given it every three weeks for six months. A simple blood test will determine whether an immune response has developed and the vaccine has worked.

Brain tumors are relatively rare compared to other types of cancer,  but they're the most common cause of cancer death in children.

Low-grade gliomas are the most common primary brain tumors, and usually affect children and young adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Low-grade gliomas often recur after surgery and radiation and may progress to a higher grade, more aggressive brain tumor. When they do, there is no cure.

"If we can prevent the tumor from growing back or from transforming to a more malignant form, the hope is that we can cure more low-grade glioma patients," says Shaw.