Brain tumor vaccine shows promise

April 29, 2006
WASHINGTON (HealthDay News) -- A new vaccine could help extend survival for people stricken with a deadly brain tumor called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Right now, patients with this fast-growing form of brain cancer have few treatment options, and most will die within a year of diagnosis. According to researchers at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center in Durham, N.C., the new vaccine targets epidermal growth factor variant III (EGFRvIII), a tumor-specific cell surface protein expressed on about 30 percent of GBM tumors. EGFRvIII, which is absent in normal tissues, stimulates the growth of cancer.

The vaccine is designed to recruit immune system defenses to target EGVRvIII and slow or stop cancer cell growth. The researchers conducted a Phase II study of 23 GBM patients who received three vaccinations at two-week intervals and then continued to received monthly vaccinations after undergoing conformal radiation and concurrent temozolomide therapy.

In the vaccine-treated patients, median time to tumor progression was 12.1 months, compared with a historical average of about 7.1 months in GBM patients. "This trial demonstrated a 70 percent increase in delaying the time to disease progression, as well as a marked increase in patient survival compared to historical controls. In fact, median survival has not yet been reached in the vaccine-treated group of patients," researcher Dr. Amy B. Heimberger said in a prepared statement.

The researchers said that preparations are currently under way for a multi-institutional randomized clinical trial of this vaccine.