Tumors are the scariest diagnosis anyone can have and a brain tumor is the most dreaded forms of cancer than any other. It is not only because of the dangers of malignancy, but also because brain tumors can cause major damage due to the pressure they exert on the surrounding area along with the fact that it is the most complex surgery of all.
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth in the skull. There are several types of brain tumors, which are identified based on their characteristics.
To all those tumor sufferers in this world, researchers in the US have a glimmer of hope to share. They are targeting a deadly type of brain cancer by aiming at a common virus found to be active in people who have these tumors.
They hope to trick the human immune system and use it to attack the cancer. Researchers at the Duke University in North Carolina say that so far things are positive and this seems to be working.
They are performing a trial on sixteen people suffering from glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most common type of cancer affecting middle-aged people. The incidence rate is 30% of all the brain tumors and this is considered to be the most difficult tumor to treat.
These sixteen people on trial were given a vaccine to attack the virus and the results show a significant delay in the progression of the tumor in these people. This is the delay between the time the tumor was removed by the surgeon to the time it starts growing back.
In these people, who are undergoing the trial with the new vaccine, this time has doubled, and changed from the usual six months to twelve months. Overall survival has jumped from about 14 months to above 20 months.
Dr. Duane Mitchell, a cancer researcher at Duke said, “We have seen patients who are beyond 20 months with no signs of their tumor growing.”
All these patients got the vaccine in conjunction with temozolomide, the chemotherapy drug, which is found to stimulate the immune response to the vaccine further.
Previous studies have found that the human cytomegalovirus is active in 80% of the people who are newly diagnosed with this type of cancer. It was also noticed that this virus was active in the brain tumors but nowhere else in the brain. Doctors say that human cytomegalovirus is usually present in 70% of the people in childhood, but it remains dormant in people who have healthy immune systems.
The vaccine that is meant to kill the virus is made from cells in the patients’ blood. The idea is to activate the immune systems, which will then attack the tumor cells and kill them.
Researchers say that are not yet sure if this virus has a role in promoting the cancer but the fact that the virus resides in the tumors, makes it a useful target in immune-based therapy.
Many more studies need to be done using larger groups of people, but researchers are hopeful that this could provide some help to cancer patients, who currently do not have any reliable treatment that really helps them. The doubling of time in these trial patients has given the researchers a lot of hope that it will show more benefits in the larger group trials.
This study that was presented at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons meeting in Chicago, provides a small ray of hope for cancer patients throughout the world. It is good to know that people may be given a chance to fight cancer instead of succumbing to it in helpless silence.