Breakthrough therapy wipes out deadly brain tumor in days: ScienceAlert

Breakthrough therapy wipes out deadly brain tumor in days: ScienceAlert

A brain scan of a 72-year-old man diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of cancer known as glioblastoma revealed a remarkable regression in the size of his tumor within days of receiving an infusion of an innovative new treatment.

Although the results of two other participants with similar diagnoses were slightly less positive, the success of the case still heralds the search for a way to effectively treat what is currently an incurable disease.

Glioblastomas are usually as deadly as cancer can be. Emerging from supporting cells in the central nervous system, they can rapidly develop into malignant tumors that claim up to 95 percent of patients’ lives within five years.

Researchers at Mass General Cancer Center in the US suspected that a treatment based on a patient’s own immune system, known as CAR T-cell therapy, might succeed where other therapies have failed.

Once approved to treat blood cancers, CAR T-cell therapy’s impressive ability to sniff out cancer cells just might present advantages in killing glioblastomas.

The patient’s T cells are harvested and re-engineered to recognize identifying surface markers on the outside of cancer cells before being returned via infusion, meaning that CAR T-cell therapy is a bit like hiring a local bounty hunter. heads to sneak silently through the alleys in search of a wanted villain.

One marker prevalent in a number of glioblastomas, a mutated variant of a protein called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), has potential as a target for CAR T-cell therapy. Unfortunately, glioblastomas wear various disguises that make the reengineering process a real challenge.

To overcome this, researchers have found a way to encourage CAR T cells to also produce antibodies that seek out non-variant EGFRs. Although these proteins are not normally expressed by brain cells, they are found in cancer cells, providing an additional identifying feature for the recruited bounty hunters.

Preclinical laboratory trials have found that the T-Cell Engaging Antibody Molecule (TEAM) therapy works as expected at the tumor site, even recruiting other regulatory T cells to join the fight.

Intraventricular CARv3-TEAM-E T Cells in Patients with Glioblastoma (INCIPIENT) is a phase 1 clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety of the process as well as its potential as a treatment.

Only three patients, all diagnosed with a form of glioblastoma expressing the EGFR variant, were selected.

The first patient, a 74-year-old man, underwent standard drugs and radiation therapy for his tumor, only for it to return a year later. A day after receiving an infusion of CARv3-TEAM-E T cells, his prognosis looked good with an MRI scan showing a significant reduction in the size of the mass.

Just months later, the patient would be back on the operating table with follow-up scans showing the cancer had once again progressed.

It was a similar story for a 57-year-old woman with a large glioblastoma growing in her left hemisphere. Although her tumor had almost completely regressed five days after the therapy, the cancer showed signs of recovery just a month later.

With no signs of shrinking cancer returning in the 72-year-old third participant and side effects limited to fever and some nodules appearing briefly in the lungs, the researchers are optimistic they have reason to continue exploring their new immunotherapy approach .

“Our study of CARv3-TEAM-E T cells provides proof of principle that multiple surface antigens can be targeted simultaneously using CAR T cells and confirms that EGFR is a suitable immunotherapeutic target in glioblastoma,” the team wrote in the publication your report.

Without knowing the long-term prognosis of any of the patients, it is premature to describe the treatment as a cure. Yet with further study and additional clinical trials, CAR-T cell therapy may offer a glimmer of hope for at least some patients diagnosed with the deadliest cancer.

This research was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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