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Brain Tumor Vaccine Shows Promising Results 62

ScienceDaily is reporting that a new vaccine used in the treatment of a cancer found primarliy in the brain is showing promising results after an initial trial at the University of California. "Of the 12 patients being treated, eight can currently be evaluated for overall survival, while four are still receiving treatment. Seven out of the eight patients have exceeded the historical median benchmark of 6.5 months survival from time of recurrence. The investigators will continue to follow the patients for overall survival. Based on these results, a larger, multi-center phase 2 study is planned for late 2007."
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Brain Tumor Vaccine Shows Promising Results

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  • by PinkBird ( 317418 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @02:56PM (#18753945) Journal
    had to be said!!!
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Workaphobia ( 931620 )
      % Ohhhh,
      I'm a tumor I'm a tumor; I'm a tumor,
      I'm a tumor I'm a tumor; I'm a tumor,
      I'm a tumor I'm a tumor; I'm a tumor,
      Tumor. %

      It had to be sung.
    • by vimh42 ( 981236 )
      Having had a brain tumor as a child, I cannot express enough how annoying it is anytime somebody quotes that.
  • Vaccine? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:04PM (#18754069)
    I know they use the word vaccine in TFA, but my understanding of a vaccine (plus a cursory glance at a dictionary) suggests that a vaccine should be something you administer in order to prevent someone from getting a disease, rather than something you use to treat a person who already has the disease.

    Any of you bright science boys or girls know what the difference is between a "vaccine" and any other drug you might use to treat a diease? Just wondering.
    • Re:Vaccine? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:08PM (#18754123)
      This particular cancer "recurrs".

      The vaccine is made from the previously cut-out cancer cell of that patient,
      and is used to prevent recurrence.
    • by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:18PM (#18754287)
      My crude understanding has been that vaccines are intended to amplify the immune response to pathogens. This can happen before or during a disease (prophylactic or therapeutic according to Wikipedia []
    • Re:Vaccine? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DebateG ( 1001165 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:26PM (#18754397)

      A vaccine is any substance that stimulates your immune system to attack a pathogen specifically. It stimulates what is known as the adaptive immune system, which is the part of the immune system that recognizes a specific infection. For example, you may be infected with Hepatitis A, and that generates a nonspecific inflammatory response. Later on, your T and B cells "learn" to specifically begin attacking the Hepatitis A virus. If you get infected with Hepatitis B, you still have the nonspecific inflammatory response, but your learned response against Hepatitis A doesn't help here; it's very specific for Hepatitis A.

      In contrast, most drugs don't prime your immune system against specific proteins on the pathogen. Chemotherapy drugs tend to just kill rapidly dividing cells non-specifically; you get nausea because the normal cells in your gut are also killed. There are some drugs such as monoclonal antibodies that can specifically attack and kill the pathogenic cells, but they don't work by priming your immune cells.

      It's a misconception that all vaccines prevent you from getting the disease. The BCG vaccine for TB doesn't really prevent you from getting infected with TB chronically; it prevents you from getting a really severe kind of acute TB. In fact, some vaccines are actually administered after you've already been infected. For example, the rabies vaccine causes a brisk immune response against rabies. You usually receive it *after* you've been bitten by a rabid animal, so there is already rabies virus replicating within your cells. It helps you clear the virus that is already there.

      I hope this helps.

      • Thanks, thats very clear. If I could mod you up I would!
        • I said:

          Thanks, thats very clear. If I could mod you up I would!
          Not that I care, but why on earth would someone mod that down?
          • I_just_can't_help_it ..............

            You must be new here ..........

            "You've got a chart filling a whole wall with interlocking pathways
            and reactions to shock and the researcher says "If I can just control
            this one molecule/enzyme/compound I'll stop the whole negative
            physiologic cascade of post haemorrhagic shock." Yeah, right."

  • by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:09PM (#18754137) Homepage
    Presumably this is a therapeutic vaccine, since survival data is reported. Don't think you could get this as a prophylactic vaccine in order to ward off future brain tumors.

    As for the statistics, the fact that 7/8 have exceeded the historical median survival is fairly meaningless. I'm sure that historical literature could be produced to provide equivalent results in a single small study. Also, at a single site, you have no insight into the selection criteria for the patients enrolled... Were they selected because they were highly likely to survive (e.g., early stage disease)? Is the investigational site vested in the therapy (likely the case, at least for a principal investigator)?

    Will be interesting to see what phase 2 studies bring - hopefully it works out as well as they describe here, but if history is any judge, that is probably not going to be the case.
    • by flynt ( 248848 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:19PM (#18754307)
      Well I of course agree with your sentiment, calling the results "meaningless" isn't quite right either. They have some meaning, even if they are based on a small sample. For instance, if all 8 patients died the day of their first dose of vaccine, would you call that meaningless? If you read the article, all the actual investigators understand this is only a Phase I study, but that's where everything starts off. I agree, so many things that seem promising do not work out when done in a large trial, so excitement should be tempered until then. Your criticisms of this study would be valid if it were a Phase II/III trial, but this one clearly wasn't designed to show efficacy.
    • These statistics mean a great deal to me. Even if it's 7/8 out of 100, that's still better than 0 out of 100. If it turns out to be a 60% chance, I'll take that over 0% any day, month or year. I was diagnosed with a glioma after my wife found me at midnight having multiple seizures on the living room floor. My kidneys shut down and the doctors were talking transplant. Fortunately they started back up again, but I think I would rather die than go through chemo again. It was furtunate(God), also, that m
  • Cell Phones (Score:3, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @03:54PM (#18754755)
    Does this mean we can use our cell phones again?
  • But gliomas are comparatively rare compared to metastatic brain tumors. How about something to treat metastatic cancer, guys?

    • by fatboy ( 6851 )
      My father died last year from non-small cell lung cancer. He had brain metastasis in his language center and thalamus. He had aphasia that was cured after radiation and a contentious use of large amounts of Dexadron. It was a very short five months, and I am glad he had some relief from the months-long headache he endured before treatment.

      My mother-in-law was diagnosed with a rare type of glioma a month ago. My wife and I were expecting it to be a benign tumor. We were devastated by the diagnosis.

      Any new ca
      • I lost my mother to metastatic breast cancer 2 months ago. Part of that process was surgery followed by radiation to try to control brain mets. Unfortunately her aphasia was only temporarily relieved by this treatment. The disease ravaged her terribly - she lost motor control in one arm, the other had 2nd degree lymphedema from treatment of a cancer in her shoulder making it essentially useless. She lost the ability to walk, a tumor on one femur caused a broken hip that was inoperable. Eventually it was att
    • This is the type of tumor I had. If you read the article you'll notice that it says the recurrence is always fatal. My tumor was treated with chemo two years ago. I've readjusted my 401K plan because I don't know how much longer I'll be around. Forgive me if I don't share your opinion.

      I'm assuming that metastatic cancer is already high on the priority list anyways.
  • Cautious Optimism (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrazyTalk ( 662055 ) on Monday April 16, 2007 @04:10PM (#18754955)
    As someone who has a brain tumor (not a glioma, but still malignant) I keep a sharp eye out for new developments. It seems like every other day a new "cure" is announced, but there is a LOT more work to do. Still, this is a good sign and the more research that goes on the better. Even if this ultimately doesn't prove to be as big a help as it initially appears to be, its one step closer. One thing that these types of treatments DO do, which is often overlooked, is prolong the life (And improve the quality of life) of people with the disease, making it something that is "managed" like say Diabetes as opposed to just being a death sentence. I'm 4 and a half years out of what my doctor told me was a 3-5 year life expectency, and I fully intend to beat that by a wide margin.
    • by talljuan ( 52154 )
      me too!

      In my case, after the resection of my tumour (a gangliglioma) nearly 3 years ago, my prognosis does not anticipate any further development for the forseable future. However, there is no way to fully discount the possibility of a recurrence, so I do like to keep tabs on the field. If something starts to redevelop, I'd sure like to know of alternative treatments so I don't have to get any more holes drilled into my skull!

      BTW, this work sounds related to that done by my neurosurgeon Dr Linda Lia
      • Going on 6 years after the first resection of my high-grade glioma in 2001. There is life after brain tumors, and it's reassuring to know that there may be options if it ever comes back.
  • by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <> on Monday April 16, 2007 @04:28PM (#18755231) Homepage

    This vaccination to treat brain tumors sounds similar to earlier research for treating skin cancer with vaccination [].

    I am a colon cancer patient myself, having been through surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, and three kinds of chemotherapy over the past three years. Last fall I was contacted by NIH about participating in a new trial to test customized vaccinations for metastatic colon cancer. The protocol is pretty scary. First they extract white cells from your blood stream. Second, they knock out your immune system with some nasty chemotherapy. Meanwhile in the lab they genetically modify the white cells to recognize your tumors. Finally, they reinject you with the modified cells to establish an immune system that will attack the cancer.

    Ultimately I was rejected as a participant due to characteristics of my tumors. I was disappointed not to be able to receive a possibly miraculous treatment, but it was also a relief to avoid a nasty ordeal.

    I am also watching with interest a different type of vaccination treatment. Researchers are vaccinating subjects against CEA [], a common protein involved in colon cancer and other cancers. It's potentially much simpler, since the vaccination is against CEA in general rather than having to be customized for each patient.


  • If this drug pans out, we all know what phase 3 is! ;)
  • Hilarity! (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by pclminion ( 145572 )

    Of the 12 patients being treated, eight can currently be evaluated for overall survival

    That's the politest way of saying "They're dead" that I've ever heard.
    • Read the Article (Score:3, Insightful)

      by trigggl ( 758335 )
      "Of the 12 patients being treated, eight can currently be evaluated for overall survival, while four are still receiving treatment. Seven out of the eight patients have exceeded the historical median benchmark of 6.5 months survival from time of recurrence. The investigators will continue to follow the patients for overall survival. Based on these results, a larger, multi-center phase 2 study is planned for late 2007."

      What I get from that is that they can't include 4 of them in the results yet. I don't see

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