New Form of Immunotherapy Attacks Aggressive Brain Cancer

Cell-based therapy shows promise in high-grade glioma.

A next generation cell-based immunotherapy improve the treatment of high-grade glioma, a hard to treat aggressive form of brain cancer with a 5-year survival rate less than 10%.

Cell-based immunotherapy is the process of injecting an anticancer vaccine that will stimulate the immune system to attack the tumor.

Although this immunotherapy has shown mild promise, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium discovered a new way to produce cell-based anticancer vaccines that are more effective.

The study used brain cancer cells from mice to induce a certain type of cell death. Researchers then took these dying cancerous cells and incubated them with dendritic cells, which play an important role in the immune system.

The results of the study showed this specific type of killing-cancer cells sends out “danger signals” that activate dendritic cells. With the immune system alerted, it was able to recognize the cancer cells and subsequently attack the tumor.

When the cell-based immunotherapy was combined with chemotherapy, researchers observed a drastic increase in survival rates in the mice. In fact, nearly 50% of the mice were completely cured of their brain tumors.

There were no long-term surviving mice treated with only chemotherapy.

"The major goal of any anticancer treatment is to kill all cancer cells and prevent any remaining malignant cells from growing or spreading again," said researcher Patrizia Agostinis. "This goal, however, is rarely achieved with current chemotherapies, and many patients relapse. That's why the co-stimulation of the immune system is so important for cancer treatments. Scientists have to look for ways to kill cancer cells in a manner that stimulates the immune system. With an eye on clinical studies, our findings offer a feasible way to improve the production of vaccines against brain tumors."