A vaccine to slow the progression of the deadliest form of brain cancer has shown promise in early clinical trials by extending the average survival rate from 15 to 26 months.
The shot, called SurVaxM, targets a protein found in tumors called survivin. It is thought that if the protein is destroyed, the cancer cells will die.
Scientists are hopeful that the vaccine can save people suffering from glioblastoma, one of the most deadly and treatment-resistant cancers, which, if left untreated, can lead to death within six months.
The vaccine is one of hundreds of experimental cancer injections and drugs in early trials.
In an early clinical trial, SurVaxM extended survival time for people with glioblastoma to an average of 26 months
The survival rate of glioblastoma by age. It is one of the deadliest cancers and the deadliest form of brain cancer
Glioblastoma makes up nearly half of all malignant brain tumors and has a five-year survival rate of 6.8 percent.
More than 14,000 people in the US were diagnosed last year, according to the National Tumor Brain Society.
SurVaxM works by targeting a protein found in tumors called survivin. It is thought that if the protein is destroyed, the cancer cells will die.
John Wishman, 61, of Buffalo, New York, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in the fall of 2020, 11 Jun 2023 12NBC news reported.
Three years later, he is doing well, despite the average survival rate from the cancer being only 12 to 18 months.
Mr Wishman got the experimental vaccine through an expanded access program, which allowed critically ill patients to try experimental treatments.
His daughter Lydia is a nurse at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, where researchers are studying the drug.
In an early clinical trial, SurVaxM extended survival time for people with glioblastoma to an average of 26 months.
Made by New York-based MimiVax, the drug will be tested in a larger trial involving 270 patients, in hopes of confirming the results.
Participants come from more than 10 locations in the US and China and compare the injection to standard cancer care.
Retired lawyer Tracey Kassman, 65, took part in the same trial as Mr Wishman in April 2022, three months after being diagnosed with glioblastoma.
She now gets a dose every two months, but because the trial is randomized and double-blind, she doesn’t know if she’s getting the vaccine or a placebo.
Participants also undergo an MRI brain scan every two months to monitor possible progression.
Glioblastomas are very aggressive cancers – they grow quickly and often take over other parts of the brain and spinal cord before a person is even diagnosed.
Dr. Honggang Cui, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, described glioblastoma tumors as “like octopus tentacles reaching into other parts of the brain.”
The usual treatment for the cancer includes chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.
However, the tumor will often grow back if cancer cells remain.
SurVaxM trains the immune system to attack and attack the cancer cells, which means that if they come back, the body will automatically kill them and stop the formation of a new tumor.
Dr. Cui said the treatment is “promising” and could “bring hope to people affected by glioblastoma.”
Trial participants are operated on beforehand to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
Radiation and chemotherapy will follow, in addition to a drug called temozolomide.
The vaccine is given in the arm like a flu shot, in four doses over two months, followed by a booster dose every two months.