The world’s first vaccine to treat deadly brain tumors could potentially give patients years of extra life, a global clinical trial has shown. A senior NHS physician who was one of the trial’s principal investigators said the data showed the DCVax vaccine led to an “amazing” increase in patient survival, reports The Guardian.
This breakthrough could be beneficial because, for example, around 2.5 thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common form of brain cancer and one of the most aggressive, live an average of only 12-18 months after diagnosis, and some even less.
One patient in a multicenter global study involving 331 people, lived more than eight years after taking DCVax. In the UK, 53-year-old Nigel French is still alive seven years after he contracted the disease.
“The total results are astonishing,” said Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, a neurosurgeon at King’s College Hospital in London, who was the lead European scientist on the study. “The final results of this phase three trial … offer fresh hope to patients battling with glioblastoma.”
The vaccine also extended the lives of patients considered to have a worse prognosis — the elderly and those for whom surgery was not an option, he added.
If approved by medical regulators, DCVax would be the first new treatment in 17 years for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma and the first in 27 years for people whose glioblastoma has come back.
The researchers found that newly diagnosed patients who received the vaccine survived an average of 19.3 months, compared with 16.5 months for those who received a placebo.
Participants with recurrent glioblastoma who received DCVax lived an average of 13.2 months after receiving it, compared with 7.8 months for those who did not receive the vaccine.
A total of 13% of people who received it lived at least five years after diagnosis, while only 5.7% in the control group, according to the results of the study, published Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Oncology.
A vaccine is a form of immunotherapy in which the body’s immune system is programmed to seek out and attack a tumor. It is the first developed to fight brain tumors.
“The vaccine works by stimulating the patient’s own immune system to fight against the patient’s tumour. It provides a personalised solution, working with a patient’s immune system, which is the most intelligent system known to man,” Ashkan said.
The vaccine is produced by combining proteins from the patient’s own tumor with their leukocytes. This teaches the white cells to recognize the tumor. After the vaccine is administered, these trained white blood cells help the rest of the patient’s immune system recognize the tumor as something it needs to fight and destroy.
A total of 232 study participants received DCVax, and 99 received a placebo. 331 patients had surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy to remove as much of the tumor as possible, which is the standard treatment for glioblastoma.