NEWS 21 July 2022
There’s a lot of excitement around about a vaccine that might prolong the life expectancy of people living with glioblastoma (GBM). DCVax was developed by Northwest Biotherapeutics and is currently in its Phase III clinical trial.
It’s a personalized immunotherapy which is thought to work by firing up your own immune system to track down and attack the tumor. It uses proteins from your own tumor and combines them with your white blood cells, then injects that vaccine back into your body to trigger and strengthen your immune response.
NW Bio recently reported that in its Phase III clinical trial, DCVax increased the extended survival rates for people living with GBM, the most common of brain cancers and one of the most deadly. Each year, some 2,500 people in the UK and about 13,000 people in the US are diagnosed with the disease.
One of the challenges in immunotherapy cancer treatment is getting the patient’s immune system to recognize cancer cells in order to attack them. DCVax is a personalized vaccine made from the patient’s own dendritic cells which help the immune system recognize cancer cells. The vaccine trains the patient’s white blood cells to identify the tumor cells and get rid of them. In recent years, immunotherapy has led to breakthroughs in treating many forms of cancer, though glioblastoma patients have not benefited significantly from these advances to date.
The eigh-year phase 3 trial recently concluded. Evaluation of the outcomes for a cohort of 331 patients show an increase of average survival from 16.5 months to 19.3 months for those newly diagnosed. Similar results were seen for those receiving the vaccine following recurrence, with an extension of 5.4 months compared to existing treatments. Perhaps the most striking result is that the proportion of people living for more than 5 years after diagnoses doubled – from 5.7% in the control group to 13% of those receiving the novel treatment.
While experts have been encouraged, the trial design used was innovative, and the results still need to be independently reviewed and interpreted for conclusive findings.
NW Bio is working hard to gain regulatory approval for DCVax in the US and the UK.
So what do these results mean for the OurBrainBank community? The context is that there have been no new treatment options available to newly diagnosed GBM patients since 2005, and nothing for those with recurrence since 1975.
We are eagerly awaiting these results to be peer reviewed, so that we can be confident that the promise they appear to offer is genuine and solid. We will be watching closely to ensure that patients are informed about the results and have a real sense of what they mean in terms of possible treatment options. We need to keep up the pressure for more investment to progress significant research in this and other frontier areas.