New hope for brain cancer

Published: Aug. 19, 2016 at 4:39 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- More than 12,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2016. These are the deadliest of all brain tumors. If the tumor comes back after chemo and radiation, patients have very few options and are typically given just a few months to live. Now there's new hope on the horizon.

Collecting stamps is a passion for Francois. His hobby has taught him that the rare finds are often the most valuable.

Francois is a rarity himself. He's been living with an aggressive type of brain tumor for almost four years. When his tumor came back after surgery, radiation and chemo, Francois enrolled in a clinical trial.

Francois says, "I said, let's do it! Let's go."

Michael Vogelbaum, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, says, "In general, these are patients that are looking at a survival of months, not years."

The phase one study involves injecting a virus directly into a patient's brain.

"What this does is it infects the cell and turns it into a factory to create more virus. That then spreads within the tumor," explains Dr. Vogelbaum.

The virus helps deliver a gene to the cells. Patients are given an oral anti-fungal drug and the therapies all work together to activate the immune system, causing it to recognize and kill cancer cells.

"Now, we're starting to see some early signs of success," Dr. Vogelbaum says.

Researchers studied 43 patients. Overall survival increased to 13.6 months compared to 7.1 months for those in a control group. About 40 percent of participants who received higher doses of the treatment were still living after two years.

Francois had the therapy almost three years ago and he's beating the odds every day.

He says,"I thought I was Superman, and I am Superman. I made it!"

The virus and gene used in this trial haven't been used in humans before. This approach is different from past studies that have used common viruses, such as the cold virus or polio, which can cause an aggressive immune response in the body. The researchers are now enrolling patients in the next phase of the study.

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