Long Island Researchers Test Vaccine Made from Patients’ Own Cells to Help Fight Aggressive Brain Cancer

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DCVax Brain Clinical Trial at LI Brain Tumor Center Uses “Personalized Medicine” to Treat Glioblastoma

We decided to offer this clinical trial because preliminary data from earlier studies showed DCVax improved survival

Researchers at The Long Island Brain Tumor Center at Neurological Surgery, P.C. (NSPC) are testing a personalized cancer vaccine known as DCVax-Brain – a unique treatment made from patients’ own cells – with patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The Phase II study is currently enrolling participants, and is being conducted at Neurological Surgery, P.C. offices in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York. The Long Island Brain Tumor Center at NSPC is the only study site on Long Island.

“Because glioblastoma is the most aggressive type of brain cancer, we want to make sure our patients have the latest available treatments, as well as access to a large portfolio of experimental therapies,” says neuro-oncologist Jai Grewal, M.D., principal investigator on the study and co-director of The Long Island Brain Tumor Center. “We decided to offer this clinical trial because preliminary data from earlier studies showed DCVax improved survival.”

Co-investigators on the study include neuro-oncologist J. Paul Duic, M.D., co-director of The Long Island Brain Tumor Center, and neurosurgeons Jeffrey A. Brown, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.N.S., Lee Tessler, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.N.S., and Ramin Rak, M.D. A number of Long Island hospitals are collaborating with the Center on this study.

DCVax®-Brain (also called DCVax-L) is a unique personalized vaccine designed to stimulate a patient's immune system to fight cancer. The vaccine is made up of the patient's own "dendritic cells," the master cells that direct the immune system, which have been activated and "educated" to mobilize the whole immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells bearing the biomarkers of the patient's own tumor.

The standard treatment for patients with glioblastoma is surgery to remove their tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Patients entering the study agree to participate before they undergo surgery. Cells are removed from the tumor after surgery, and the patient’s blood is drawn to isolate immune cells. The cancer cells are used to “train” and activate the immune cells to attack the cancer in a vaccine that is injected back into the patient.

Patients enrolled in the study must be newly diagnosed with malignant glioblastoma. All patients in the study receive the current standard of care for those newly diagnosed with glioblastoma following surgery – temozolomide (Temodar®) plus radiation therapy – and also receive either the vaccine or a placebo. The odds of being randomized to the active vaccine are two out of three (67 percent). The study is double-blinded – neither the research investigator nor patient knows whether the vaccine is being given. Patients who receive the placebo will have the option of being given the vaccine if their disease progresses.

In July 2010, DCVax manufacturer Northwest Biotherapeutics reported promising results from follow up on earlier clinical trials. The data showed that median survival was three years, 33 percent of the patients reached four-year survival, and 27 percent reached or exceeded six-year survival. The longest surviving patient as of the time of the company’s report had exceeded 10 years.

Malignant brain tumors are the second leading cause of cancer deaths in people under 35, and the fourth leading cause of cancer death in people under 54. Glioblastoma is the most common and most aggressive primary (non-metastatic) type of brain cancer. Median survival for glioblastomas is 12-14 months, and only 26 percent of patients survive two years.

The Long Island Brain Tumor Center at Neurological Surgery, P.C. offers a multi-disciplinary approach to treating brain tumors, provided by a team of more than 20 physicians and surgeons with various sub-specialties. The team works in concert with patient's established health care professionals, and treats primary brain and spinal tumors, as well as metastases. The Center is currently conducting a number of clinical trials.

For more information on this or other brain tumor studies, please call Kimberly Prabhu, M.A., CCRP, (516) 478-0010.

About Neurological Surgery, P.C.
Neurological Surgery, P.C. offers patients treatments of brain and spine disorders that include minimally invasive procedures such as stereotactic radiosurgery (Gamma Knife® and CyberKnife®), aneurysm coiling, neuro-endoscopy, spinal stimulators, carotid stents, interventional pain management, microdiscectomy, kyphoplasty, and X-STOP®. The practice’s physicians represent a range of surgical and nonsurgical specialties, combining compassionate care with highly specialized training. NSPC offers eight convenient locations in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties. For more information, call 1-800-775-7784 or visit http://www.NSPC.com.

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