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Existing treatments for curbing various forms of gliomas, or brain cancers apparently attack differentiated tumor cells. However, a new vaccine for brain cancer titled ICT-107 is said to directly attack the antigens or proteins on the glioma stem cells, which should make it more effective.

This new vaccine is currently being tested in various health facilities across the U.S., including the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. The assessment will occur in two phases, the first of which has already been completed.

It studied a group of 16 patients in the center who were newly diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the highest grade malignant glioma. These subjects received the vaccine in addition to other regular treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The rate of one year survival in these patients was seen as 100 percent, while that of two year survival was found to be 80 percent, which is higher as compared to standard treatments alone.

“Vaccines are a way to harness the body’s own defenses – which are usually used to ward off or control infections like the flu – to fight cancer cells instead,” explains Glenn Lesser, M.D., a professor of internal medicine, hematology-oncology, at Wake Forest Baptist and principal investigator for the study.
“It is a way of presenting antigens or proteins normally found on the surface of the cancer cells to the immune system so that immune cells can seek out and kill those cancer cells anywhere in the body. This is not unlike giving a piece of clothing to a bloodhound and then letting it loose to find a missing person.”

Under the second phase of this randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, a minimum of 25 patients will be treated. Two-thirds of the patients will receive the experimental vaccine, while the rest will be administered with a dummy one. This will be done in addition to other usual forms of treatments as described in the first phase. The vaccine will be introduced in the post-radiation phase.

Similar tests are also being carried out across 20 such centers across the U.S.