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Friday, March 23rd 2007

Brain Cancer Hope

When you fear a brain tumor, you’re fearing glioblastoma multiforme. This poorly differentiated, necrotic tumor is bad news. It is also the most common adult primary brain tumor (although, brain tumors aren’t exactly an epidemic).

That Looks Pretty

Well Body Hack is linking to a press release about a vaccine which appears to have hope of pretty significantly prolonging median survival in those patients with GBM.

“When you hear about people being diagnosed with brain cancer and dying several months later, that’s usually glioblastoma,” he said. Any treatment that improves survival time in people with the disease is a significant improvement, he said.

The vaccine arose from a 1992 discovery Wong made while he was a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University. He found that in many glioblastomas the cells are dotted with an unusual form of a common protein called epidermal growth factor receptor, or EGFR. Although the gene for that altered protein doesn’t contain any mutations, the cells inexplicably chop out several chunks of the normal protein before lodging it on their cell surface. He named this unusual variant EGFRvIII because it was the third variant he had discovered.

In this case, Wong thought he could direct the immune system to attack cells carrying EGFRvIII by administering a vaccine. The activated immune cells resulting from the vaccine would ignore normal versions of EGFR on other noncancerous cells throughout the body, attacking only the cancer.